Monday, October 14, 2013

two timer

This post is a little difficult for me to write.  I was hoping I could write all about how I crushed my goal and finished the United Healthcare Marathon in under 4 hrs.  I was hoping I could write about how I felt great and followed the plan.  I was hoping I could write about how excited and happy I am about finishing my second marathon.  Well, unfortunately, that is not the case.  I am happy I finished my second marathon.  I am happy that I reached my second goal of a new PR.  But there are many more things I am unhappy about, and unfortunately that is what's on my mind right now.  Usually I try to be positive about the result of a race whether I felt it was good or bad.  I know I am still learning and have a LOT to learn.  I know I still have a lot of growing to do as a runner.  I feel like I have a lot of potential.  But right now I'm having a hard time with falling short of my sub 4 hr marathon goal.  

Here's how the weekend went.  Saturday we headed down to RI around noon.  My boyfriend and I picked up my friend, Julie, who would be running her second half marathon as well.  The plan was to meet up with a couple of my other friends, who were also running the race, at the expo in Newport.  We got there around 2:30 and picked up our numbers.  The expo was in a tent right on the beach.  It was beautiful.  We played in the sand for a bit before making a trip to the grocery store.

a feather to match my shirt

After going to the grocery store, all 6 of us went over to my dad's house in Tiverton, where we were all staying.  He and my stepmom made a delicious pasta dinner for all of us.  We had some wine, hydrated, relaxed, and went to bed early.

At 4:30 am my alarm went off.  I didn't sleep well that night, so I had a little trouble getting my butt out of bed.  I always try to give myself plenty of time before the race to have coffee, wake up, and choke down some food.  Just before 7 we loaded up the cars and headed over the the marathon parking at Second Beach.  We had to take a bus over to the start of the race at Easton's Beach.  After visiting the porta-potties, we lined up and got ready to go.  My stomach was in knots.  I was super nervous but excited it was finally time.  

Monica, Beth, myself, and Julie before the start

My plan originally was to stay around 9 min/mile pace for the first part of the race.  If I felt good, then I would start to run a little faster.  However, my friend, Beth (who is typically MUCH faster than me) said she would run with me and help me reach my goal of sub 4 hrs.  She thought I was capable of finishing around 3:50, so planned to run around an 8:45 pace.  I went with it.  BIG MISTAKE.   

Through the first half of the race I felt pretty good.  My legs were burning a little, but there were a few hills, and I was hoping I would be able to recover.  I got caught up in the excitement, the people, and the amazing views.  Our paces ranged from 8:30-9 min.  I was feeling optimistic.  

One of the beautiful Newport beaches 

so many amazing views on the water

This race has a half marathon option.  Those doing the full and the half run the same course, and then those doing the full continue on.  We ran next to the finish line for the half.  We heard all the names being announced of those finishing.  We saw all the people cheering for those finishing the half and those cheering for the rest of us who were crazy enough to run another 13.1 miles.  Once we passed through this area and turned the corner for the second part of the course, my mind began to race.  I suddenly couldn't believe I had to run another 13.1 miles.  I wanted to turn around and be done.  My body felt tired, my stomach was nauseous, I had a lump in my throat, and I freaked out.  The words "I can't do this" actually left my mouth.  I started walking.  My mind and my body were not cooperating.  I really started to believe I might not actually finish this thing.  What the hell was happening to me?!      

Thankfully, Beth was there to keep me going.  She said some encouraging words and urged me to keep going.  I wanted to punch her in the face at the time, but was so grateful to have her there.  The next few miles I continued to walk/run and struggled to keep moving forward.  I thought of the quote I wear on my wrist from Kara Goucher, "A step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Keep believing."  I kept moving forward.  

At this point, I think around mile 16, I told my friend to go ahead.  She was fully capable of finishing the way we had planned.  I didn't want to hold her back and knew I was going to struggle through the remaining 10+ miles.  She made me promise her I would finish the race no matter what.  I made that promise and then watched as she ran ahead in to the distance until I could no longer see her anymore.  I was crushed.  This wasn't how this race was supposed to go.  I was supposed to be running along side her and finishing the race next to her.  Once I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to finish under 4 hrs, I readjusted my plan and focused on my second goal of finishing with a new PR, which was still very much within reach.  

The last 10 miles weren't pretty, but I got through them.  I walked through each water stop and made sure to drink as much as I could.  I felt like I needed more fuel.  The shot blocks I had just weren't cutting it that day.  I needed something.  I grabbed a banana from one of the tables (what?!).  I drank some more water and gatorade and told myself to just keep moving forward.  My stomach was still hurting.  I questioned making a bathroom stop, but the thought of squatting in a porta-potty with how tired my legs were helped me make the decision not to.  The second half of the course had many more long, unforgiving hills than the first.  Running downhill started to become just as hard as running up.  I continued to make my way through the miles, very slowly.  It wasn't pretty.  

As I started to climb the last hill around mile 24 I tried to pick up the pace a little.  I started to picture all my friends and family at the finish line waiting for me.  I knew they all would be proud of me, even though I made them wait for me at the finish longer than planned.  Finally, I turned the corner just before mile 26 and saw the white tent at Easton's Beach.  I heard the cheers and the announcer announcing the names of those finishing, this time for the full marathon.  I felt my legs start to run faster.  I saw my family just before the last turn heading for the finish.  I turned the last corner and immediately heard the announcer say my name.  I saw my friends and my boyfriend all cheering for me.  I gave it all I had through the finish.  


giving it all I had

crossing the finish line

I finally crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 17 seconds.  A new PR by over 20 minutes.  I was very happy I didn't give up when I thought I was going to.  I fought through and finished the race, even though I knew my big goal was no longer in reach.  I won the battle with my mind when it told me I couldn't do it.  I am happy to say I have completed 2 marathons.  

Yesterday I felt ok about what happened.  I was upset obviously, but was happy I didn't give up.  Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about the race and what happened.  I couldn't stop thinking about what could have happened if I had done it differently.  What could have happened if I stuck to my original plan and didn't run with my friend.  Today those thoughts have continued to run through my head.  I wish I had run my own race and followed MY plan.  My biggest fear was going out too fast, and not enjoying the later miles because of it.  My biggest fear became reality yesterday.  

Of course, with any disappointment, there can always me a million what ifs.  I've shed a few tears and am now trying to work through the disappointment and focus on the fact that I crossed the finish line over 20 min faster than I did when I ran my first marathon in 2007.  I think the hardest part is that I really believe I am capable of more, and I wasn't able to prove it yesterday.  

So, I didn't reach my big what?  Another marathon.  Disappointment is all part of the process.  I guess I can't win them all (although that would be pretty cool, huh?).  I'm giving myself a couple of days to be bummed and upset, and then it's time to move on and focus on the next.  Now I have a better understanding of what to do and what not to do.  I know I can get there.  It's just going to take a little longer than I had hoped.                                  


  1. You will absolutely get there! I think it's amazing that you stuck to the fast pace as long as you did considering it was faster than you planned and you still finished in a great time. Now you know to start slower and I am sure you will be able to finish sub-4. Did you decide on the next marathon? I'm doing Richmond in November, definitely recommend if you're up for another one soon!

    1. Thank you! It was a struggle for sure, and I alternate between beating myself up for making a mistake that I told myself I wouldn't make, and being happy that I did improve from my last one 6 years ago. I know I'm capable of more and I want to continue to improve, and am excited to continue with the process. November is probably too soon...I am thinking something in the spring would give me more than enough time to recover and then train properly again. I'm trying to fight the urge to sign up for another right away so I can get redemption. I know that wouldn't help though and if I did worse because of it, it would be an even bigger blow to the mental confidence. I am pretty sure I've decided on the Vermont City Marathon in May. It's one I've wanted to do in a town I love, and would give me plenty of time to prepare.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement!! Good luck to you next month!!

  2. Congrats! A 20-minute PR is amazing. I've totally been there - I ran NYCM 2011 in 4:20, 11 minutes slower than the year before. I was in the same boat as you - I'd just ran a 1:45 half PR and knew I was capable of more. When I got back home to Houston, I upgraded my half-marathon registration to the full, which was about 10 weeks later and, long story short, sub-4'd it in 3:58, an 11 minute PR. You WILL prove it before too long. :) Can't wait to hear what your next marathon will be!

    1. Thanks Emilia! Those kind of stories help me see that bad races can happen to anyone, and it's important not to give up when you know you have more to give. Thank you for sharing :) Good luck to you at NYCM!!

  3. I love that quote from Kara Goucher! Congrats on your 2nd marathon, and your PR!! Newport is a beautiful place to have a marathon. I also can't wait to hear what you have next on your list! :)

  4. I am way late in reading this I know. Forgive me. How are you doing? Do not fret lady. I know it is easier said than done. I think you totally need to give yourself the time to be upset and then it is time to move on. Marathons are crazy events, you never know how it will go. I am positive you have that sub 4 in you, without a doubt. Maybe not this time, maybe next time, maybe not, but you will. Keep your head up you are one speedy lady.