It’s like a birthday without a party

I had an incredible training cycle; going from injured and barely able to walk pain-free to running a marathon and picking up multiple PR’s along the way.  I know results show that I should be happy with my day, and maybe I just need to dwell in the positives, but right now the wounds still feel a little raw.  I am still processing everything as I write this, so please bare with me.

I was so close, until I wasn’t, and then I started seeing my goal slowly slip away.  I’m filled with both heartache and pride as I tally up the elements that created my race day.  I feel so much gratitude by the support I received from my coach, Tim, friends, family, and even the volunteers, but my obvious regret is that I just couldn’t execute the second half of the plan.

I set an ambitious goal, I reached for the stars, and I missed. That sentence makes it seem pretty simple, but processing it feels complicated.  What I do know is that I am not done with the marathon. I will run another one this year. This time stronger, wiser, with a better base, and again the same goal.  SO, here is my story.

Short version:

Goal was 3:30-3:32… Result was 3:48:00.  A 52minute Marathon PR with a really solid training cycle and both a 10 mile and ½ marathon PR from races within this cycle.

Long version:

I slept well, nutrition leading up to race week was on point, and I arrived at the start line race morning feeling calm and focused. I had my gel intake written on my hand, and my mile split goal written on my forearm. I was confident in my plan and felt strong knowing I had put in so much work.

I had run the race in my head all week – if my stomach acted up, I planned to take a ginger chew and pull back for 10-30 seconds. Should I have a side stitch, I would change my breathing pattern and focus on the word “Calm.” If my tendonitis acted up, I was going to think about how good my other leg felt and just keep pushing… I knew that countless things could go wrong in a marathon, but I felt prepared to combat them all and keep moving. I accepted that I would be uncomfortable or in pain for three and half hours and that was OK.

Race weather seemed perfect at the start – Low 40’s, partially cloudy, with a light breeze. I typically run really well in cool weather, and if given a choice I would have personally selected this temperature.

We left the house at 6:15am, parked, met with the Oiselle ladies for a team photo, checked my bag,  quick bathroom stop, and suddenly I was in my corral at 6:57am.  Alexis Pappas started the race off (OMG!!!!) and we were off.

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Miles 1-5: 7:55, 8:03, 8:05, 8:06, & 7:58

Sure it’s the beginning of the race, but I felt contained and in control. Running was easy, breathing wasn’t labored, I was holding back my pace and trying to stay within the 8:00-8:10 goal that Becki gave me — I felt like I kept my emotions in check as I stayed focused and calm.

Mile 6-7: 8:02, 7:56

At mile 6 I was hit with a pretty bad foot cramp, super unexpected… I splayed and wiggled my toes around for the next mile trying to work the cramp out and not lose my focus. (I am pretty sure this bunched my socks up weird… Remember that for mile 16). I ran by the first Oiselle Cowbell corner and gave Krysta a thumbs up… Overjoyed, this is what I worked for.  Just had to keep moving for less than 3 hours.

Miles 8-10: 7:59, 8:04, 8:07 – TOTAL TIME 1-10 was 1:20:10 – right on goal

Miles 8 and 9 I kept telling myself to keep it controlled.  I knew I would need to pick it up even more in the following miles… it didn’t take long though for my day to transition from normal to WTF…

Shortly after mile 10 my whole body was covered in goosebumps. I was freezing, which is weird. This has only happened to me a couple times at the end of a race, and usually it is if I am working too hard or dehydrated.  I started to panic, and then thought, “nope, just work the problem, work the problem, don’t freak out just keep moving.”  My electrolyte intake seemed fine; I was taking a sip of water at just about every water stop, taking ½ a gel every 4 miles, and swishing and spitting Gatorade. I couldn’t pin point the issue.

Miles 11-13: 8:02, 8:09, 8:06

I was supposed to run these miles at an 8:00ish pace, but I pulled back, as each hard effort made me break into chills, and I couldn’t combat that mentally.  I had prepared myself to push through physical pain but I didn’t prepare for what felt like my body shutting down.  A little doubt started creeping in but I knew if I could maintain an 8ish pace and recover, I could still hit my goal. Hell, there was a lot of race left and I wasn’t going to let go. I ran past Tim at mile 13 and gave him a “so-so” hand signal and kept going.

Miles 14-16: 8:27, 8:58, 8:53

Confusion set in. My goal was within sight but I didn’t have much wiggle room. Checking in with my body nothing felt injured, it just felt heavy and I didn’t feel “good”… I started noticing pain on my toe, which later turned into a giant blister (feels like I’m walking on bubblewrap), and I could not increase my pace.

Miles 17-20: 9:21, 9:04, 8:51, 9:10

This is where it gets ugly. I realized shortly after mile 16 that a BQ was not happening… The 3:35 pace group passed, and I immediately felt disheartened but I wasn’t giving up – My short-term goal was now to get to mile 18 and see Krysta + Tim.

I ran past Krysta and Tim, gave a thumbs down and kept going… Krysta jumped in and started running with me giving me the best pep talk that absolutely broke my heart. “What’s wrong? It is all in your head! You look great, just keep moving!! Are you eating? What do you need? You are running a marathon and not even breaking a sweat! Run! Keep FUCKING MOVING!! There is still time!” I tried to respond, without crying and said something along the lines of, missing the goal, feeling ok but my body was so cold, and I just couldn’t turn my legs over… and then Krysta gave my back a firm push and said, “GO!”

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Mile 21-23: 9:38, 9:31, 9:24

Somewhere along mile 21 the 3:45 pace group passed me — humbling — but I kept pushing forward. That’s when the interval running started, once again humbling. Run a few minutes, then walk 10 seconds through the water station, give myself a pep talk, and repeat. At mile 22 I saw Krysta and Tim again and immediately Krysta fell into stride with me.

She said what I kept thinking but couldn’t execute, “You can do anything for 20 minutes, its just 20 more minutes.” I made some sarcastic remark, and she rebutted with, “You are about to finish on Hayward Fucking Field, where Olympians run. The BQ doesn’t matter, you are doing great, you look great, just keep going.”

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Miles 24-26.2: 9:39, 10:05, 9:22, 8:34

Nothing new or profound to say here, I just focused on the end being in sight. New goal was just to finish and try to keep everything in perspective. To appreciate what my body could do, and be grateful for everything I learned along the way.

I ran onto Hayward Field, I picked up my pace as much as I could, I crossed the finish line in exactly 3:48:00, found Tim, and then immediately started crying.

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I know it is a huge PR (52 minutes!), I recognize that I battled demons on the course, and ultimately came out stronger, but it still wasn’t the result I trained for and it doesn’t feel like the right reflection of the who I am. I thought I would cross in 3:3X:XX and anything short of that feels underwhelming.

It felt like a milestone birthday, but without the party. Expectations were set, work was put in, the invites went out, but the piñata was never bashed.

Eugene didn’t give me the outcome I wanted, and that is okay. I have a come a long way, and there is so much potential left to tap into – That should be exciting instead of damning. If I can PR 52 minutes while starting the training cycle injured, what will I accomplish next time?

I read a quote by George Eliot last night, and this is how I want to reflect on my goal going forward.

It is never too late to be what you might have been – George Eliot

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