This was not the post I thought I would be writing.
I had envisioned crossing the line in 2:5x so many times, during so many workouts, that I didn’t see how it couldn’t happen. My gut told me it would happen, and I’ve learned to listen to my gut more as the years have passed, but now I’m regretting even putting myself out there again. The heartbreak was hard enough the first time; now I have to go through it all again.
The 4 months of training were flawless. Yes, I had an injury for the 10 months prior to that, but I was performing well in my races and feeling stronger every day. I only missed one mile of an evening run because I thought I was supposed to run 4 miles instead of the 5 that were written, and one interval workout when I came down with a head cold. Otherwise, I did every workout on my plan–many times getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. on the weekend to get my long run in before work or church. I didn’t always hit the paces prescribed, but I gave 100% effort in every workout.
The last 3 weeks leading up to the marathon were filled with a lot of relaxing and time off my feet, a stricter diet, massages, ART, plenty of sleep, etc. The only thing that stressed me out was the weather forecast. The first two weeks I was in Minnesota, the weather was hot and humid: perfect for being outside, but not the weather conditions I wanted for a marathon. As the day got closer, the weather started to cool down, and it ended up being perfect racing conditions: low 50s, overcast, and a slight breeze. I thought it was perfect.
The morning of the race, I gave myself plenty of time to get ready so I wouldn’t be scrambling to get ready. I had half a cup of coffee (couldn’t risk having too much caffeine), a piece of toast with peanut butter, and sipped on some water with electrolytes. My brother-in-law took me and my sister (Kristy) to the start, and I ate an RX Bar on the way there. Kristy and I met up with my coach (Nichole) for some warm-ups. We chit-chatted about some strategies for the race and then made our way to the start. We took our sweats off, checked our bag, and then got positioned at the front of the first corral. As soon as the race started, I felt awesome and knew (thought) this would be my day.
It felt so easy from the beginning. We were ticking away each mile with no problems, and I didn’t see how I wouldn’t be able to maintain this pace for the rest of the race. Over the years of racing, I’ve learned to feel out appropriately-hard paces from the beginning of a race, and I was positive I could keep this throughout the race.
Nichole, Kristy, and I ran side-by-side and the miles quickly went by. I heard so many people shout “go ladies” or “girl power” and things of that nature since we were mostly among a lot of other male runners. It was so encouraging, and I soaked up the cheers and the fact I was running with my sister and coach. It was so fun!
Mile 1 – 6:50
Mile 2 – 6:59
Mile 3 – 6:38
Mile 4 – 6:43
Mile 5 – 6:45
We saw my parents, brother-in-law, aunt, and Cullen at mile 4.5. I waved to Cullen, and we all smiled for the camera
Mile 6 – 6:47
Mile 7 – 6:49
Mile 8 – 6:45
Mile 9 – 6:48
Through these miles, I was in the groove, focusing on the task at hand, praying for Kristy and Nichole, giving my thanks to God, and taking everything in. I had every bit of confidence I would be crossing the finish line in 2:5x. I felt great!
Mile 10 – 6:39
Mile 11 – 6:45
Mile 12 – 6:50
Mile 13 – 6:43
We hit the halfway point at 1:29:14. At this point there was some fatigue setting in, but it wasn’t as bad as other marathons I’ve run. I knew it was going to take some work to maintain this pace, but I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room if I needed it. We ran the tangets, didn’t exchange hardly any words, but knew we were all doing okay–good actually at this point!
Mile 14 – 6:50
Mile 15 – 6:43
We saw my family again at mile 15. Shortly after this Nichole started to pull ahead of us. I didn’t have quite enough to keep with her, but I stuck to the pace we needed, so it was just Kristy and I for a little while. We were doing great, when all of a sudden I heard Kristy utter an, “Ugh!” And I knew something was wrong. Then I heard her say, “Go.” So I kept going and had to leave her behind. We had already decided that we needed to each run what we were truly capable of.
Mile 16 – 6:47
Mile 17 – 6:49
I still felt decent at this point–not great, but still okay. I was staying under 6:50 for almost every mile, which is what I needed to break 3 hours.
Mile 18 – 6:54
Mile 19 – 6:47
Then the course gets a little hillier, but I didn’t think it was terrible. (Hello, Boston!) However, I felt the lactic acid set in my legs and suddenly they felt like lead.
I willed my legs to keep moving at the 6:50 pace. Anything that would help: water, GU, thinking about how much I had invested into this one day, telling myself it would be the last marathon I ran, etc. I used all of the mental strategies I could think of, but my pace started creeping above 7 minute miles.
Mile 20 – 6:54
Mile 21 – 7:07
I tanked on the Summit hill. Every step burned and every footfall resulted in shots of pain radiating through my legs. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to make my sub-3 hour goal.
Mile 22 – 7:30
Mile 23 – 7:41
However, I did not let that give me the permission to give up or ease up on my pace. Because you never know. I recalled Nichole’s most recent race and blog post, and I knew I had to keep pushing as hard as I physically could.
Mile 24 – 7:21
Mile 25 – 7:37
Mile 26 – 7:28
The last half mile to the finish lines ends on a downhill, which is awesome, but it made my legs hurt even more. It felt as though a knife was stabbing my legs each footfall. Just get me to the finish line! I finally saw the clock: 3:02:32, 3:02:33, 3:02:34. . . .I though if anything, “Don’t let that clock get to 3:03!”
My Garmin stats:
26.34 miles | Average pace – 6:57
As soon as I crossed the line, I bent over, closed my eyes, and felt every inch of my body searing with pain. Thankfully a volunteer helped me stay upright and walk through the chute. I couldn’t even open my eyes I was so beat. Within a few minutes I was finally able to walk on my own, but it wasn’t easy.
It was a long walk through the finisher’s chute. I heard them say Kristy’s name, so I knew she wasn’t too far behind me. When I saw her I held up my fingers: 3-0-2. She knew what I was trying to tell her, and she frowned because she knew how important that sub-3 was for me.
We found our family, sat down, and conversed about the race, and then shuffled back to the car.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to have a new PR (with no asterisk behind it), and I placed 19th for the women, which I’m pretty proud about!
But today my heart is heavy, and I am beyond devastated. I did not even fathom this would happen. As I hobble around with every square inch of my body hurting: arches, calves, hamstrings, quads, abs, back, shoulders, and neck, I know I gave it everything I had.
Time will soften the pain just as it did after Grandma’s last year. Now I just have to reevaluate what my running goals are. One more chapter is written in this book, but unfortunately the book isn’t finish yet. Who knows, maybe it will never be finished. I’m not sure what the future holds. Right now the sting is still too strong, and I need time to console with friends and family.
Thank you to each and every one of you who followed my progress, left comments, sent me texts, and thought of me on race day. It truly means so much, and I appreciate all the love.