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

Muddy slóð // Muddy Trails

This past Sunday I ran the Oregon Coast 30K and oh my goodness it was amazing.  Beautiful and brutal at the same time!!  Wind, rain, mud, single track trail, awesome people, great views, tons of vertical, a new friend / Oiselle teammate, great pizza and beer, I could go on (and I will).  There are a couple things I need to work on in order to nail my next race but overall I am so proud of how it went.

My current training schedule has had me focused on my goal race in December; the Deception Pass 50K.  This past April I signed up for the OR Coast 30K to 1) see the Oregon Coast 2) ensure I kept running throughout the summer and 3) use as a training run for Deception Pass.

I admit that the 30K has not been top of mind until a week ago, realizing that I wanted more out of it than just a training run.  I wanted to use this race to check my fitness and see what I had in me.  How well could I do if I pushed a little harder?

As I started writing out my race plan, breaking the course up into 5 sections, I noticed that between my projections per mile and the prior race course results, I could easily place in the top 10 females!  Racing for placement is completely new to me.  It is both exciting and scary, as you are forced to simultaneously become tough and vulnerable in the same moment.

I wrote out my a/b/c goals and texted them to my best friend.  Either I would go out too fast, blow up, and humbly be passed by a lot of people, or I would actually nail my race plan and be in the top 10.

  1. Pie in the sky goal: Finish in 3:30 and be in the top 3
  2. WHOA so cool: Finish in 3:45 and rank in top 5 females
  3. Realistic and still proud: Finish in 4:00 hours and rank within top 10 females

I went back and forth between nerves and excitement.  Finally focusing on the wise words of my friend Krysta, “If you follow your pace plan, you will have a great race.  If you nail your pace plan, you will place in the top 10.”  It was simple as that.  I needed to focus on my race and not anyone else racing near me.

Race Morning:  Race Overview 9:55 / Start time 10am

Weather was slightly less than ideal with a mix of mist, rain, and manageable gusts of winds between 10-15mph.  James Varner, the Race Director, went over the race course and warned us of slippery wood bridges, wet rocks, and mud.  I nervously laughed, as a memory from wiping out on a wet wood bridge this past spring came back to me.  As much as I love running in cooler temperatures and cloud cover, I knew the biggest challenge would be running through the thick mud and over wet bridges.  My advantage would be the flat roads and steep downhills.

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Part 1:  The Road / Miles 1-3ish:

Initially I planned to run the first three miles conservatively with easy 8:30’s or close to 9’s, but the moment I heard James yell, “On your marks, get set, GO!” I took off and didn’t look at my watch… Less than a quarter mile in, I looked around and noticed it was just me, the lead pack of guys + 2 girls… Whoops.  So much for conservative.

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We made our first turn past the crowd, over the hotel lawn, onto the street and kept going.  My watch clicked mile 1 in 7:45, and then mile 2 in 7:41.  I wised up, pulled back, and female #2 passed right by me.  Shaking it off and reminding myself, “You are not here to win, you are here to run your race, and work your plan.  Stick to your plan.”  Alright, back to the task at hand, I was focused and ready to go again.  After 2.5ish miles you cross the street and hop onto a soft trail which begins a slight ascent and then descent until mile 3.

Part 2: The First Climb + Descent / Miles 3-6.8:

I huffed and puffed and pushed the first climb, struggling between not wanting to go out too hard & not wanting to give up too much of a lead.  Around mile 4, female 3 passed me and then shortly after female 4 ran by me.  I looked behind me and couldn’t see anyone… “Work the plan.”  I could save my energy and take my uphills between 15-20 minutes if needed and still come in at 4 hours.  The first half of 900ft climb was a mix of soft dirt and roots, the second half of the climb was thick and slippery mud!! The decent was just as challenging, but I somehow managed to stay up, keeping my foot turnover light and quick. I hit the aid station at mile 6.78, grabbed a banana + some Sprite and kept going, following closely on the heels of female 4.

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Part 3: The Second Climb + Descent / Miles 7-13

I knew the second climb would be the hardest physically but I didn’t anticipate my Garmin GPS going out.  Mentally, that was challenging but I pictured the map and elevation chart and trusted my instinct.  I looked down at my Garmin and the timer continued to count up, but the pace and miles were not updating.  This lasted for about 1.5 miles.  Somewhere along the second climb another lady passed me taking over 5th place.  I ate some gummies and kept power hiking.   To be honest this section is somewhat of a blur… I just kept power hiking as quickly as I could and focused on moving forward.  After climbing 1200ish feet, the descent felt incredible!!  I was running with another guy at this point and as we started the long anticipated descent he yelled, “This feels amazing!!” To which I responded with, “YES!! We have earned this moment!”  Finally, I reach mile 13, the second time at the aid station.  I filled up my water and drank some Coke.  I stood there for about 30 seconds and then took off for my last climb of the day!!

Part 4: The Third and Final Climb + Descent

Somehow this climb didn’t seem as bad as the first two climbs… Maybe it was because I knew once I reached the top it would be relatively smooth sailing, or it helped to know what was coming as I had already ran it in the first 6 miles.  For a large portion of this climb I had to squat down, put my hands on my quads and dig my heels into the muck in order to progress further and not slip back down the trail. Regardless, this climb and descent seemed to fly by.  I didn’t hear or see anyone behind me, and I knew if I just kept moving then I would secure my place in the top 10.  I ran past people foraging chanterelles and about 10 minutes later ran past lobster mushrooms on the trail (WHOA!!).  When I finally reached the top of the climb, I took off on the descent, running at an angle down the hill to avoid slipping through the mud.  Eventually the muddy path turned back into technical roots and then to the soft soil… and all of a sudden I was back on the road.

Part 5: Return of the Road

Initially I thought I would be able to bust out 8:30’s / 9:00’s on the way back… That did not happen.  10:30’s was the best I could do.  Maybe on a dry day where I had not wrestled the mud and fought to stay on my feet, but in this moment, I was just happy to have solid pavement below me.  “Don’t walk, keep going, almost done, almost done, almost done!! 6th female if you keep moving….”  I kept my eyes on an older gentleman who I had ran with off and on throughout the day.  I looked behind me and still did not see any other ladies.  This was it!!  I saw the finish line, picked up my pace a bit, and ran with everything I had left. As I crossed the finish, I high-fived the Race Director and said, “THANK YOU!!  That race was beautiful, amazing, hard, and kicked my ass!  I loved it.”

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And then all the pizza, beer, and time with Tim.

Official time 4:02:56

Results: 1st in AG, 6th overall female, and 23rd overall.

*Special thanks to Tim for driving the 14 hours (round trip) from Seattle to Oregon Coast,  for his support and encouragement, and for all the amazing photos.  The photo on the ridge is from Glenn Tachiyama Photography.