Where do I even begin? Well, here I guess:
A PR and a BQ. I ran my heart out and left every single thing on that course. But, I also realized I still have a LOT to learn, and my emotions are a mix of being incredibly pumped and a tad bit disappointed. (I know, I knowww.)
But what’s way more important than 26.2 miles is the 72+ hours in Eugene, where I spent such an incredible weekend with really, really amazing people. Like I’ve said a million times over, the community is what makes running so special, and what makes training for and running a marathon so so worth it.
Anyhow, this is what went down.
As the race drew near, I was kind of quiet about my goals. But in my head my A goal was sub 3:30, my B goal was to BQ, and my C goal was to PR. Yet after I talked to a bunch of people who’d followed my training, I started believing/was pretty much convinced a sub 3:30 would be relatively “easy,” and I shouldn’t hold back. Soooo within 24 hours I convinced myself I was a 3:20 marathoner, and dove in head first at the starting line. Yikes.
Miles 1-4: 7:48, 7:28, 7:39, 7:43
By mile five, I knew I was going out too hard. Actually, scratch that. By mile two I knew I was pushing it. But I also knew I went out way too slow at Wineglass (8:40s!) and I decided to just take a risk and see what my body could handle. At every mile mark I wanted to pull back, but I was feeling relatively strong, and was also running with Kristina (who ran a 3:17..AMAZING) so it was fun to have a run buddy. My watch splits zonked out after mile 5 (which in hindsight was good, or else I’d see those splits get slower and slower…) and by mile 8 I had left Kristina (actually, we hit a hill and she left me…). At this point Mason jumped in to run with me/feed me nuun, while convincing me my pace wasn’t actually slowing down (were you lying??) and I was still running strong and right on schedule. But in my heart I knew I couldn’t keep up with the pace, and that the next, oh, 16 miles, were going to be a struggle.
It was a little daunting.
Still smiling here at mile 9 (thnx for the photo, Em!) though it was more like a “shiiiiit this is fast #yolo” smile:
I crossed the 13.1 mark at 1:41 (PR!!) and by then I’m pretty sure anyone who was tracking me figured I’d either a) just run the half-marathon race, or b) was going to keel over and die. I chose option c) which meant I had to hold on for dear life. For a long time.
Miles 14-20 were pretty much the hardest six miles of my life. I couldn’t lock into a rhythm, and basically hit “the wall” by mile 15 (yeah, a tad early…). I was super, super woozy, but taking chews made me nauseous and drinking water made me cramp up. I was so delirious at one point that I splashed gatorade all over my face (thought it was water…) and didn’t even care. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to pull over, how many times I looked for a twig I could trip and fall on, or how many times I said “I’d be happy with this 1:41 half, and even more happy stopping and putting a beer to my face.”
Instead, I somehow kept going. My mantra became “I am so much more than a number, I am so much more than a number” and I stopped caring about time or pace. I started listening to “We Are the Champions” on repeat (Mighty Ducks II FTW). And most importantly, I reminded myself of my training: of every early wake up call, tempo run, long run, and stride. I couldn’t let myself fall apart this easily after all of that hard work. I focused on just one foot in front of the other — just one mile at a time.
When I hit mile 20 (FINALLY), I knew something had to change. I was running the last 10K for one my closest friends. I asked her what miles she wanted me to run for her, and she simply responded “the hardest ones.” She’s insanely tough, so I knew if she could push through what crazy life can throw at you sometimes, I could at least spit out some 8:30’s. And by some crazy miracle, I did.
I felt faster, I felt better, and was able to stomach a little bit of gatorade and another chew. I felt relatively and miraculously okay until mile 25 — when the course throws you into this grassy field with no sight of the road ahead, which somehow opens up to the street, into Hayward field, the track, and the darn finish line.
I pushed as hard as a could (which was probably an 8:50 pace, let’s be serious) and thank goodness Mason ran with me again and helped me stay composed for those final 800 meters. I reached the track, and couldn’t even soak in the magic of running on it. I could barely see straight, aaand could barely keep my head up. Form fail.
I crossed the finish with my hand over my heart for Boston. My legs immediately locked up, I grabbed my medal, and I did everything in my might to stay standing. I hobbled around with Meggie (who ran a damn amazing race) and we searched for chocolate milk while spitting out post-marathon nonsense like “BQ… I’m so happy… fuck… this hurts… where..is..chocolate..shit..BQ..that was intense…unicorns.”
But I did it. It sure as hell wasn’t pretty, but I know I left everything on that course, and don’t have a single regret.
And can I run faster? Deep down I know I can. But I went out too hard, and am proud I was able to hang on for so long. And a BQ for my second marathon aint too shabby either (:
But I’m also not sure the marathon is for me. Coming from someone who ran 400’s in high school (that’s one lap around a track), 26.2 miles (105 laps if you’re curious) is a daunting distance. I actually think the 10K-13.1 mile distance is my sweet spot. That said, there is something that will always be different, always magical, always hell-bent-crazy-insanely-beautiful-soul-searching about a marathon that no shorter distance can compete with.
I also learned a lot. My two biggest struggles are pace (duh) and nutrition. I consumed 7 chews the whole race (roughly 220 calories, aka not enough) plus a few swigs of gatorade, water, and nuun (maybe 12 oz in total, if that). And that…is laughable. It’s absolutely not enough, and it’s absolutely why I felt so weak for much of the race. But I also couldn’t imagine my body being able to take anything else in without cramping up or feeling super nauseous. So I still need to experiment. Figure it out. Start out more relaxed, consume more calories, keep listening to Queen, and keep remembering to have a fucking blast. I’m just not sure the marathon is where I should do it. And I’m completely okay with that.
So will I try to sign up for Boston? Let’s be serious….probably. And will I run another marathon before next spring? There’s a decent chance. But one step at a time. For now, I’m just reveling in the fact that I spent such a wonderful weekend with a group of fantastic people. I couldn’t ask for a more special house and a more special group of other Internet friends turned IRL friends who made this weekend the best, regardless if I ran a 3:20 or a 4:20 (or I guess a 3:33).
And while Eugene maybe didn’t reignite my love for marathons, it absolutely reignited my love for running.
And after my the blisters heal, my quads feel like normal again, and I can sort out the 80,000 other things happening outside my running life, I can’t wait to get back out to the roads and see what I can accomplish.
Until the next starting line.