When I crossed the finish line of the Ogden Marathon in May, my cup was full of sadness, disappointment, and frustration. None of those are the reasons why I run. I knew I had to make a personal change, but I didn't know what I needed to change.....my training, my goals, or my mental toughness. I just didn't know.
I started another training cycle with hopes of qualifying for the Boston marathon in the fall. I was able to increase my mileage to a steady 50 miles/week. I continued with my strength training and stretching. I even made the ultimate commitment to hit the track once a week. And to put the icing on the cake, I invited some very talented runners to help push me.
But my hip started to ache. Not just the "oh, I'm tired" ache...but the ache of something is definitely not right. That feeling of dispair started to settle and I went through the mourning cycle. Anger, sadness, depression.....anger, sadness, depression.
I was diligent with my rehab. But I knew if I wanted a happy hip, I had to reduce my miles and cut out my speed work. I continued to workout and did not know what the future would hold.
Just a few weeks ago, I decided to run the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, Utah. I still had the desire to get a BQ, but knew my training was not 100%. So I had no specific goal in mind. In fact, I asked Smooth (a dear running friend and travel buddy) in the hotel the night before the race what she thought my goal should be. She suggested a PR, which would be a 3:58 or under.
I was at the grocery store just before I left town and spotted Allie (Utah's elite marathoner). We talked running in the produce section. What a treat! I was able to take a long nap before I picked up Smooth. It was great to catch up with her on the way up to Logan. I sure love that lady. She is funny and full of wisdom! We thoroughly enjoyed the fall leaves though the canyon. We drove the last portion of the course (which included lots of twists and turns) to familiarize ourselves with it. We headed to the race expo and then got some pizza (another Allie sighting). We went to the hotel and crashed early!
Smooth and I got on the hotel shuttle to head to the busses. It was perfect weather for race day! I got a little motion sickness on the way up and it felt like we were on the bus forever. I was so excited to see the start staging area! After waiting in the POP line, we headed to the warm tent. Soon enough it was time to shed our warm clothes and go to the starting line. It was cold and I was thrilled!
I decided I would try to stick with the 3:55 pacer as long as I could and shoot for a PR. The gun brigade went off and 26.2 miles lay ahead of us. The 3:55 pacer went off like a shot and by mile 2, I looked at my watch....we were running a sub 8 minute miles. YIKES, I knew I couldn't sustain that pace. I knew the pacer was trying to bank some time while going down the canyon. I couldn't hang on.
I let him go and started to feel sad. Another running failure. Another step backwards.
During the next several miles, I had a "come-to-Jesus" talk with myself. I knew I didn't have the training for a BQ. I was starting to realize maybe a PR wasn't in the cards either. So why be so sad and disappointed? Could I let those feelings of dispair go? Could I just go with the conditions that were present? Could I be flexible? It took me several miles to think and contemplate.
Around mile 10, I came to the conclusion that I could not have another bad race. Mentally, I couldn't handle it. I needed to have a positive experience because I don't run to feel sad. I don't run to feel like a loser. I don't run to have the weight of the world sitting on my shoulders. I run because I love the way it makes me feel. I run to feel empowered.
So I just decided to run. Suddenly the fall leaves became brighter. I could feel a slight tailwind. I could hear the volunteers cheering my name. I could feel myself smile. I didn't look at my watch for the rest of the race. I knew my pace was slowing down, but my spirits were staring to soar.
At one of the aid stations, I heard a little boy yell, "I have the best gatorade ever". He was waving his cup around, sloshing red stuff everywhere. He totally made my day! I took his drippy cup and it tasted better than any other gatorade I had the whole race. Thank you little man for your enthusiasm.
We exited the canyon. I was thrilled to see spectators out cheering for their loved ones. Their signs they held were bigger and brighter than any I had seen. Their cowbells were louder. Their pump fists bigger. I was actually feeling this race.
The GU I took at mile 18 almost made me barf and I think I freaked out some volunteers. It made me laugh. I threw it out and took an orange and salt tablet instead.
The last 6 miles were full of twists and turns. I started visualizing my favorite training runs...."oh I just have to the trail bathroom and back...I can totally do that". I was able to sing to the songs in my head flowing through my iPod. I could hear the music from the finish line around mile 24. I didn't have feelings of desperation. I was alright. The mean little hill on Main Street wasn't so bad. The finish line didn't seem forever away. I cherished the announcer calling out my name. I had enough strength to raise my hands under the finish arch. I could smile. I could feel the excitement and not feel like I was going to die.
At the finish of every race, I have a tendency to bend over and put my hands on my knees. I think the immediate stopping makes me loose my balance or puke. I had a sweet volunteer call me by name and ask if I need a bucket. For once, I was able to smile and tell him no thanks....I am great! I walked through the finish area and saw the medical area with several runners hooked up to IV's. I felt a deep gratitude that I was able run not necessarily fast today, but happy and healthy.
I'm sure some may look at this race as I set a goal and failed to meet it.
Yes....I didn't hit a PR.
BUT I was able to let go of a lot of negative demons. I was able to feel in this race. I was able to smile and enjoy. I was able to sing songs in my head after running for 4 hours. I call it victory.
Don't get me wrong, I still have a goal of qualifying for Boston. But it is going to be a journey.
A long one.
And if it is going to be up and down, hilly, and hard, I need to soak in all of the goodness it has to offer.
So now my plan comprises of a week of nothingness. I need to clean my house. Pick the raspberries, potatoes, carrots and beans in my garden. I have a goal to have no workout clothes in the wash. I need a break. I'm thinking about running a 50k in October. I'm going to do the least possible amount of running I can to finish the race.
I'm going to cut my mileage and intensity way back during November and December....lots more cross training. I'll start picking things back up in January. I've been giving 110% for 1.5 years and my body needs to recover. I'm curious to see what 2015 will bring!