Featured anyBODY Runner Maryalicia V. (cont.)

It was not long before my long awaited Marathon weekend was here on June 17th, 2012

Saturday I spent working as a volunteer. Energy Events was gracious and allowed me to bring my daughter, and work while she was there. She did great and I handed out packets and shirts for the 5K and Kid’s race that day. Later in the day, I handed out the shirts for half and full races the next day. One great part is as the 5K pickup slowed, I was able to go out and cheer on the incoming 5K runners! In fact I saw one guy out on the 5K course that I saw the very next day walking the half marathon course (Way to go!). The day passed quickly, and after I was released, I spent some time with my brother at the expo and bought next year's registration before I forgot. When I left, I drove the course a second time and went home and made signs with my friends who were supporting me the next day. Pretty soon it was time for bed, although I knew sleep was going to be hard to come by.

When I woke up at 4:30am on June 17th, 2012, I knew I had to be a runner. Only runners are crazy enough to get up this early to do something like run a Marathon. I was very excited for this race day, and surprised at how refreshed I felt, despite the lack of sleep. It took an hour to get dressed and get my hair just right. Once I found out I was running the Vancouver USA Marathon, I spent the next two weeks collecting little things here and there for a patriotic outfit. I also put on the two tattoos I bought the day before. One said 'WTF; Where's the Finish?' and the other said '26.2'. I smiled at my reflection and thought about what a great day today was going to be!
Michael James Photography;Maryalicia's Fan Club; Lori, Michael, Brian, and Hailey 
My great day actually started the night before, when I received a little surprise; my husband walking in the front door. He had driven home from a car event, cutting out one day early on racing events and giving up points for his Autocross to come home and support me the next day. (I was not going to ask him to give up his race, when I knew how much they meant to him, and his had been planned months in advance vs. mine just four weeks earlier.)It was like a little serendipity! Everything was falling into place; husband and friends (read my own Fan Club on the Course), a reason to dress up, a race with more spectators, and I had tons of friends who were going to be there too. In fact, one of my best friends, Tina Holmes, agreed to run the marathon with me. She had just run Newport two weeks earlier, and had a half Ironman event coming up, and I would help her keep this as a training run. I was more than happy to oblige!

I arrived to the race in plenty of time to find parking and get things situated before the 'Coach Jim's Group Picture Event' at 6:25 in the Park. I thought it would be tough finding people, but the Brick Tower in the park made it an easy meeting point. I met with Tina easily and she surprised me with a charm to put on my sneaker for luck. It was heart shaped with 26.2 inside in mini rhinestones. I quickly added it to my sneaker and hugged her fiercely! Picture event followed, with cameras flying everywhere! The energy was amazing as friends and strangers encouraged each other and wished one another good luck. I was able to get and give tons of hugs, get plenty of pictures, and still make it to the Port O’ Potty.

Once inside the Honey bucket, I pulled out my new Pstyle. It is a little device that allows me to pee standing up, and you can use it to ‘wipe’ yourself in case there is no toilet paper which is often the case in port-o-potties or out in the woods. A friend had given me for unsanitary situations, and this was the perfect time to try it in a field environment (I had tried it at home and loved it!). It worked great, and I was on my way without touching anything, but the Pstyle.

Michael James Photography;
Donna (aka Jonna), Kerianne, Mari, Leslie, and Maryalicia perform the mandatory action shot
Soon it was time for the start of the race, and I was ready. Tina and I went to the back of the pack, as I was determined to keep it slow and consistent for the miles ahead. My plan was to run a slow 11:00 mile average pace, with my first walk being at mile two. I would walk one minute of every mile and run the rest. The race started in Intervals of three different run groups. We were in the last group, and I did not mind starting later. With separate starts (for group of expected finish times) this minimized the congestion at the start and the race opened up quickly. I was able to see my family waiting for me at a ¼ of a mile to grab some pictures, a kiss, and wish me luck on my journey. I had that runner’s excitement, and it was all I could do to keep slowing myself down, as Tina kept trying to speed me up. The first mile I was able to run with my friends Coach Jim and Ilene, and they really helped me keep my pace in check. At about 1.5 miles, we saw two people with signs ‘Run Total Stranger Run’ and I missed the other one, but I kept seeing them through-out the course, and I felt like I knew them by the end! (Loved the signs at mile 24 you two!)

At two miles, we started phase two of my plan; walking one minute of every mile and running the rest. The race started off humid, with overcast skies; it was hot, but not too hot yet. I started to get into my groove and enjoy the scenery. The miles went by quickly and with ease, and at mile five I found myself looking for my brother who was hoping for a 3:15 to qualify for Boston. We saw him shortly and he looked strong and quick and we hollered and received a quick hand wave of acknowledgement.

Miles two through ten were pretty uneventful filled with chatter and the occasional outburst of song on my part from my IPOD. Around Mile 7, I enjoyed stopping for a quick stretch break and lipstick at the Miles for Micah station and thanked everyone profusely. We ran into our friend Joel, who had suffered an injury and was out for the race. I felt sad for him, and grateful we were doing so well. By mile 11, it was starting to get hot, with the sun beating down on us, and I started thinking about seeing my family and friends soon to get some sunscreen and cool water. We were doing well, and keeping our pace at 10:50 overall average with a fluctuation of 5-10 seconds per mile. Not too shabby. As the race proceeded, I learned more about Tina and her family, which helped pass the miles.

As Mile 13, I had a quick ironic thought of ‘If I were doing a half marathon, I would be done by now ‘and smiled. I told Tina this, and we laughed together. The hills started, and we tackled them with no issues. At Mile 14.60 I finally saw Hubby and the Honey Badger sign! I asked for my kit, but he did not have it- it was ahead with Michael and Lori. At 14.75 my friends were waiting with the kit. Michael was taking pictures and we had the energy, so we did a jump of excitement and he captured one of the best pictures of the race. We stopped, and Lori sprayed us down, as well as our friend Sarah, with sunscreen. I took an extra moment to reapply Vaseline and drink cold Nuun Water (it WAS heaven!). I told Tina she needed to drink some at the next time we saw them, which was just a little while later at about mile 15.4. More pictures, more smiles, and we trotted on.
Michael James Photography;
Maryalicia helps her friend Tina with some pre-race stretching 
I could not help but get excited that we were more than half way! When I saw Mile 17, I started to have a little laughter and jump for joy. ‘Seventeen Tina! Seventeen. Less than ten miles left!!’ I cried with glee and laughter. Unsure if the others appreciated it, I think I saw someone shake their head, but I was happy. I was getting tired mind you, every time we stopped to walk was a little harder to start. I looked forward to seeing my Fan Club at the Fred Meyers, and almost forgot to walk at 18 because I just wanted to get there to see them. However we got to the Water station at 18.5 and they were nowhere to be seen (I would not see them again until mile 22 and would find out why later). I stopped to use the bathroom, readjust, and start again. The heat was really beating down, so I needed some walking time, and Tina obliged. Finally at 18.6, I started to run again and was grateful to see the mile 19 just ahead which meant another walk break!

Mile 19.5 meant walking for me. That hill was just a walk waiting to happen, and I was more than happy to oblige at the point I dubbed ‘Headache Hill’. No Fan Club meant no camera to take the infamous Flip-off Picture I had told Tina she could have at this point. We made it up the hill to see the Mile 20 sign. Mile 20 had me laughing maniacally. I remember seeing the sign and yelling to the cars and people around us that we were almost done! ‘Only 6 miles left!!!’ I started last 10K playlist; which included My Body, by the Young Giants, Stronger, by Kelly Clarkson, Titanium, by David Guerra, and many other motivating songs to help me get through. For the last 10K, I could be heard singing off beat (and missing some words) at the top of my lungs. I can only imagine what I sounded like to others.

At 20.6, there was a water stop located by the train tracks, and Tina had to go to the bathroom. She finished and ran towards me. No sooner had she crossed those tracks when the Train Arms started closing and the whistles blared a warning of the oncoming train. I turned back to see people frantically crossing the tracks of those who could make it. Mile 21 brought a big smile to my face! A kind man, in the condos along the waterfront, had set up his water hose to act as a sprinkler for us runners. Wow. I still get chills thinking about the Euphoria this caused me. The little bit of happiness it brought made me want to go up and hug him, heck even join him and spread the happiness to other runners!

Michael James Photography;
Maryalicia gives her twin brother Micahel a Good Luck Hug.
Finally at Mile 22, we came across our fan club in Marine Park! Turns out they had gone to see my brother at the Finish Line of his race, and updated me with his time. He came in at 3:28; a fantastic time! I felt it was worth not seeing them for those miles knowing would it would mean to my brother to have people cheering him in and taking photos of his accomplishment! Plus I got a little update, and that made me happy. Reapplication of sunscreen, Vaseline, quick kisses, hugs, and we were off again.

For the next mile, the fan club followed us taking pictures, Tina had enough energy for a hug jump, but I did not. I still had a smile on my face, but did not want to take the chance. My legs were tired. Just before mile 23, my leg buckled. The first signs of cramping were upon me- and so close to the finish too. Immediately, my friend Michael held out the sign out the back of his van that read 'Do Not Crawl across the finish line! I’m watching you Love Hubby'. This was my husband’s biggest concern. But I got a good laugh seeing that sign. We stopped and stretched, and massaged, and started again slowly.

This is where it started to get hard for me. The cramping became intense a few times. I had the will, I had the aerobic endurance, but my legs were not cooperating. I had a quick moment of disappointment at mile 23 (luckily my family did not see) where I burst out crying when my leg buckled again for the sixth time. I stopped and I pulled it together. I had the will- I had the desire, and this cramping was NOT going to ruin my marathon or my attitude! I calmed myself, I re-evaluated, and said Tina, ‘I got this, and we just have to walk more, stretch more, and forget time. I am here for fun, not time.” This really helped when the Five hour pacer passed us within minutes, and I just smiled and wished them well. No disappointment, it was what it was. My fan crew was waiting just past this point at mile 23.5, and gave me two Advil- which really, really helped later! Also at this point, another kind gentlemen in a bright yellow shirt, that we had been leap-frogging with since mile eleven, stopped to give me some Biofreeze, which helped immediately. I started telling myself ‘You are strong, you are beautiful, and you got this. Think of how proud you will be when you cross that finish line.’ This became my mantra.

Maryalicia's friend Tina still has energy for a big Leap at Mile 22  

Soon, it was a mix of walking and running, with me singing along the way. By mile 24, I was able to run more, but walked the Land Bridge at 24.5. Mile 25 brought more maniacal laughter and me screaming to the world (or at least the runners around us) that we were really almost done! I was so excited, this was it. Mile 25.5 brought more walking, with my Hubby AND my twin waiting at the top of the hill. Soon as my brother saw us, he stood up, but obviously too quick, and proceeded to water the grass. I threw my water bottle his way and continued on wishing him well. I knew I was on the home stretch when I passed the library. I really became invigorated and picked the last two songs to take me home; Stronger and My Body. Although my mind, will, and lungs were good, my legs still were not unfortunately. When I tried to pick up speed, my calf once again buckled and I stumbled luckily catching myself. I slowed down so I could finish upright and strong, would 30 seconds really matter? Again, I can only imagine what I sounded like to others as my emotions started to get to me as I incoherently sang out loud in-between pep talks shouts of ‘c’mon Maryalicia- you got this’ and verses of Stronger.

Finally I turned the corner and it was all I could do to not cry tears of joy. I gave myself an ‘atta girl’ with fists and a shout, and grabbed my friend’s hand. She ran this entire way with me, and I wanted her to finish with me with our hands held high. Unbeknownst to me, I got another little pleasant surprise when my friend Jules caught up to us and grabbed my other hand. We crossed the finish line together with all our hands held high! What a euphoric feeling, as I crossed the finish line in Gun Time of 5:09, Chip time of 5:07:16 with Bart Yasso trying to figure out how to say my name. I was done! I hugged Jules sobbing. Somehow I got out of the Finish line pit, received my medal, and came around the corner to see my hubby coming towards me with a large bouquet of flowers. He made me cry all over again!

Michael James Photography;
Maryalicia and Tina raising hands in victory to cross the finish line

The rest is history. We enjoyed Ice baths (what a nice surprise) and Jamba Juice (my brother may never touch the stuff again) and bananas, and Tina shared her recovery drink with me. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the beer, the booths, the bands, and the Farmer’s Market. I thought of what a great destination race this is for those traveling here! There are a few tweaks needed for the race, like larger shirts, more water stations, more ice baths, and a water bottle at the finish line instead of Dixie cups, but I think they can only improve.

I had a great overall experience, and never once questioned myself for doing this race. Never once did I ask myself ‘why was I putting myself through this torture’ or that ‘I will never do this again’. Maybe it was my attitude, and I am ok with that. Because I set out what I meant to do, which was have fun, enjoy myself, finish standing, and with at least one great photo. (In fact, I got several great photos!) Despite the naysayers who told me I couldn’t, they were right about one thing. Yes, those last six were hard, heck the last eight, but I was not going to let the course beat me. Enjoy the journey, enjoy the views, enjoy the spectators, and the hard work it took to get there. It doesn’t matter your time in the end, a seven hour finisher is still a finisher! Congrats to all those who finished, especially the first timers, you are an inspiration! It was an unforgettable experience that I will relish for all time. Thanks Vancouver USA Marathon!

Michael James Photography; 
Maryalicia, Tina, and Jules cross the finish line together!

Michael James Photography;
Maryalicia and Tina take pride in their medals 

Here is a link to my photos, which my friend Michael took (warning some are not the best of me :oP).

And a little video (slideshow) I made of my experience, with photos by Michael James Photography and Course Photos by Dave Nicely.

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