Prelude: I ran my first marathon in October of 2002. My time was 5 hours and 55 minutes. Between October 2009 and October 2010, I ran 5 marathons - 5:17, 5:19, 5:12, 5:04, 5:28. I trained for them, I ran them with all I had and was happy with my times. I had never trained with a specific finish time in mind, I always just wanted to finish with a smile. They were all hard, no matter what my finish time. I struggled through all of them.
This year, I decided I was going to train for a specific finish time. I was going to see if I could do better. My original goal was to finish in under 5 hours, so shave a few minutes off my personal best. Then I picked up a book called "Run less, run faster". They based your projected marathon finish time on your 10k time. So, on January 2nd, I ran a 10k to get an accurate time. Over the winter, I had been doing some cardio with Trevor on the stair machine and really felt like that was helping me run faster.
My 10k time projected my marathon finish time as 4:22. I thought "no way". Then I thought "why not". So I trained for a 4:22 marathon. My training included speed work, tempo work and long runs - all at very specific paces. It was the most challenging training I have ever done because I had to really focus on my pace. I couldn't just go run. This was good and bad.
One thing I am really good at is following a plan. I am very OCD about a plan. I missed a few runs over the 16 weeks due to injury and illness, but for the most part I stayed on track. With every week, I still wondered if 4:22 was really possible. I told people that I was training for a new personal best, but was afraid to tell them what it was because the goal was very agressive. Taking a few minutes off your marathon time is reasonable, a 5 hour marathoner taking 40 minutes off their time is not (to most people).
This brings us to May 1st, in Eugene.
It seemed the stars were aligning for me. I didn't make hotel reservations early enough and by the time I started looking, there was nothing close to the start line available. Then, out of the blue, a room popped up right by the start line, about 1/2 a mile away. The weather was shaping up to be amazing. All good things.
In all my previous marathons, I followed the same routine - ate the same things the day before, wore the same clothes. This time, everything was different. We headed down the night before the race. Our friends Angel and Jo picked up my packet since we weren't going to be there until about 9 pm. We ate at Chipolte on the way to Eugene - not my usual pre race meal, but I chanced it!
We got to Eugene around 8:30, stopped at Angel and Jo's hotel to get my packet and headed to our room. We got settled in, I layed out all my gear and got ready for bed. I was going to wear my skirt sport running skort and my lululemon top. I had trained in these but never raced in them. I got my ipod ready to go. I never raced with my ipod but had trained with it, so figured I would race with it too.
One routine that I kept was my prerace note. Before every event, I sit down and write out how the event went. I write about it as if it has already happened, I visualize how the day will go and put it on paper. It is always amazing how close that is to reality!!
I had a good nights sleep and wasn't too upset when the alarm went off at 5 am. We got up, I ate my breakfast and drank some coffee. I got dressed and headed down to the start line. Start was 7 am and we were so close that we didn't leave the hotel until about 6:40. I LOVED that!! I didn't have to wait in portapottie lines or anything!
Start time came, I said goodbye to Trevor - he was going to be my cheerleader and photographer all day long. I felt a little nervous, a little worried about my goal. I have been fighting an IT band issue and was afraid that would show up and ruin my day. I pushed those negative thoughts out of my head and started running.
One of my best strengths is pacing. I am really good at keeping a consistent pace. In order to meet my goal, I had to run 9:57 miles. I didn't want to start too fast and I didn't want to fall behind too soon. I did a really good job of keeping myself right on pace for the first couple miles. I felt good. There were alot of people and I loved seeing runners ahead of me as far as I could see!
The route was nice and flat. It was chilly, but not cold and the sun was shining bright. There were a lot of spectators cheering us on. The first 9 miles were through neighborhoods. I really enjoyed having my ipod, the music made the time pass quickly and focusing on each mile helped too.
Around mile 8, I saw Trevor. He didn't see me until I was right upon him. He said he had forgotten that I was wearing a green shirt and was looking for a pink shirt! He ran ahead of me and took my picture - saying "You are right on pace!"
Trevor made his way back towards the start area - he was going to meet me around mile 16. On the way, he saw our friend Angel - on her way to a personal best (and it was her birthday!)
Around mile 9, the full marathon and half marathon routes split. The crowd thinned out a bit after that. We were running along a great path by the river. The sun was shining and I was getting warm. I realized that my hands were swelling. That concerned me a bit. I had an electrolyte tab and planned to put that in my water bottle the next time I filled up.
I was still on track timewise. Averaging about 9:54. I was chugging along, thinking all my marathon thoughts - about all the people I know and love - all the people who have inspired me, cheered me and I was feeling a little alone. Around mile 13, I heard someone cheer my name. Our race bibs had our names on them, so that wasn't unusual. Then I realized it was our friends Trish, Melissa and Doug. They had made the two hour trip from home to cheer me on. They told me I looked great and that they would see me at the finish. That made my heart hurt. I have such great friends. Really...how blessed am I.
I kept going, knowing I should be seeing Trevor soon. Just after mile 15, we went across an overpass and there I saw Trevor.
He again told me that I was right on pace. I showed him how my hands were swelling and asked him what I should do. I had an electrolyte tab in my pocket. I gave that to him with my water bottle and asked him to handle that for me! He did and I really appreciated it, my hands weren't working right.
He ran with me a bit and then as we made the turn to get back on the path and off the road, he said goodbye and he'd see me at the finish. This was when things got tough. Mile 17 and I thought "why the hell am I doing this? What's the point?" Then I smiled, because that thought goes through my mind at some point during every marathon. I thought "good. got that over with". It started to become a mental battle. The route was amazing - a quiet path along the river. I knew the turn around back towards town was at mile 21. I wanted to get there, then only 5 miles left.
I had done 4 - 20 mile runs during my training, so 20 wasn't such a big deal. The swelling in my hands seemed to subside a bit. It was really getting warm out. I was loving my outfit. Usually I have to mess with my race belt (that holds my race bib) and pull my shirt down and readjust. I didn't have to do that AT ALL during this run. I really liked that!!
Mile 21 and we head back towards town. I was really struggling. My pace was still right on. I kept focused on each mile, knowing every mile was one closer to the finish. Around mile 23, I wanted to walk. I thought "I'll walk one mile and then run the rest". This went on until about mile 24. I was just about ready to walk, then I came over a little rise and saw Trevor. Damnit. Now I can't walk...
He showed up at just the right time and said he was going to run the rest of the way with me because he didn't know how to get back otherwise! He was telling me how great I was doing and how I was right on pace and I was going to do it.
He told me about the women at breakfast this morning who told him that it wasn't possible for me to take 40 minutes off my previous time. Then he told me that if we could bottle my determination and sell it, we would be millionaires. I loved that.
We had picked up the pace. Mile 21-23 had slowed to about 10:15, after I met up with Trevor, we got back under 10. We made the final turn off the path and toward the finish. Trevor left me to get to the finish line. I got to the 26 mile marker and its amazing how that last .2 miles can seem to go on forever.
Jo and Angel were there cheering me on and Angel ran with me for a bit. I made the turn into the stadium and saw the finish line. I was about 50 feet from the finish line when I realized that I was actually going to do it. My time was right around 4:23, a minute slower than my 4:22 goal. I was overcome with pride and I was saying "I did it. I did it, I did it, I did it!!" as I crossed the finish line.
I got my medal, tried not to pass out or throw up as I waited in line to get some pancakes! I met up with Trevor and all our friends. I started to get cold and needed to get back to the hotel, warm up, sit in an ice bath and eat!!! We said our goodbyes and headed back. Trevor went and got a small pizza while I was soaking in a cold tub!
We started for home around 2, stopped at Red Robins for a yummy lunch and arrived back home around 5. The rest of the night was spent on the couch.
I am so damn proud of myself I almost can't stand it. I asked Trevor what he had thought about my goal going into today. He said "I had no doubt you would do it, but I did think it was aggressive." I love that he had no doubt I would do it. That makes one of us!
I had that 4:23 marathon in me all the time, I just needed to let it out. This was such a good lesson for me. We can do SO much more than we ever give ourselves credit for. As I told my friend Tina, this just goes to show that you can achieve a ridiculous goal, if you put in the time and train for it. Next up, personal record half ironman triathlon in July. I had said this would be the year of not just doing it, but doing it better. I'm off to a great start!!!