Well, I finished. It was not pretty, but I crossed the finish line.
The day started off early with a 4:30am wake up. Between Amber, Court and I, we had a combined three hours of sleep. Amber did not sleep at all, I slept one hour and Courtney squeaked out a refreshing two hours. I woke up, had my coffee and water and nervously choked down my bowl of oatmeal and ½ a banana. We headed out the door towards the ‘L’ all bundled up and ready to go.
Catching the train in the early morning was energizing. I loved the anticipation and trek heading to the gear check tents. We walked into the park entrance, circled up for a prayer and then we parted ways. Amber and Court headed to the ADP entrance and I headed to the Red Gear Check tent.
This is the biggest race I have ever been a part of, so I made a point to look around and take in as much of the experience as possible. I had my plan for when to head for the corral and tried to lay low until that time. It was amazing seeing all the people. Thousands of neurotic runners wandering around, some looked relaxed, others looked terrified. I hoped that I appeared confident, however I am not sure if I pulled that off. I found an open spot against the fence to hunker down, listen to some calming music and get focused.
My race plan was pretty simple. Since I did not know what to expect of myself, I wanted to start out conservative. My original goal (pre stress fracture) was to run 3:09:50 which would have been a 7:14 pace, but I modified it slightly and I was shooting for around 3:15 on race day. My plan was to run the first 18 miles of the race between 7:30-7:40 and then drop down to 7:25’s. I left myself a bit of a window, thinking if I felt solid at mile 10, I could drop a little earlier.
As 7 am approached I made a final bathroom stop and headed over to Corral A. I could see the giant “Start” sign and made my way over the far left. They announced all the elite runners and as we approached 7:30am, everyone crowded towards the front and soon enough… we were off.
I had a hard time dialing in my pace the first few miles. I think a combination of excitement and skyscrapers made this a challenge. I felt focused at the start and tried to not get wrapped up in all the excitement. It was overwhelming how many people were out to cheer on the runners.
At about mile 6, I realized I was ahead of where I wanted to be and decided to scale back my pace a little. I felt okay at this point, but I wanted a negative split so I slowed it down. My foot seemed to be feeling okay (I was constantly assessing it) however my hip made its presence known starting at mile 4. I hoped it would go away over the next few miles.
Terence was going to be at mile 10 and I told him I would look for him. To my surprise, I spotted him out right away and gave him a high 5 and thumbs up.
That was probably my biggest highlight of the race.
Things unraveled shortly after that. My foot started aching around mile 12 and I tried to make adjustments so it would be more comfortable. I had a very fast mile 13, and felt I was bouncing around on pace again. I started to feel concerned about my foot and started questioning if this was really wise. The negativity started creeping in my head and it took a different form than I expected. I came across the 1/2 right where I wanted to be, so I was holding on to that as a positive.
Somewhere between mile 15 and 16, my foot found a pothole and my ankle rolled right over. I stumbled to the ground and felt terrible because I caused two others to fall behind me. The next few moments were rather chaotic as someone on the side was yelling “Runner Down! Runner Down!!” Realizing that ‘runner’ was me, I popped right back up, grabbed my sunglasses and just started running again apologizing profusely to anyone around me. Several people kept asking me if I was okay… all I wanted to do was disappear.
It took me a few minutes to gather myself, and looking back, I really should have just stopped for a minute and collected myself. I didn’t though, and proceeded to try and run through whatever just happened.
My body felt like it started shutting down quickly after that point. My legs were not working the same, I was limping and I was pissed. I was upset that I was not running faster, that my foot/ankle/hip were all hurting, and that people were holding signs that said “Hurry up runner! We are missing brunch!” My calf started cramping because I was compensating and skipping and I had a brief thought that maybe I should stop in the aid tent.
I jogged/hobbled pissed off until about mile 21 when I arrived at the dancing dragon in China town. The race felt miserable and the reality of how long it was now going to take me to finish at this pace felt overwhelming. I felt beat up by the road and emotionally bankrupt . It was in that moment that I realized I needed an attitude change. I needed to let go of the goal that I set in front of me because the situation had changed. I battled with myself – questioning if I was giving up or if this was smart. I then remembered when a friend and mentor, Dave Bushnell, told me that sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to reestablish a new goal based on a change in situation. New goal: Cross the finish line.
With my new goal in mind, I began searching for ways to make this experience a better one. What can I do to make this more enjoyable? Since I was not ‘racing’ past the water stations, I decided to look the volunteers in the eye and honestly thank them for being out there. Focusing on appreciating the support that others were giving, really shifted my experience and got me out of my head. All my positive talk that I had practiced escaped me, so going outside myself was the best option. I began talking with some of the other gimpy/injured runners as I pulled up next to them. We all seemed to funnel to the left side of the course. There was a woman whose knee kept giving out on her, and a man who just let go of his Boston goal because his calf would not stop cramping. We encouraged each other and limped along. We all seemed to have the same strategy – just make it to the next water station.
It’s a defeating feeling seeing so many people run by you. The idea of a DNF crossed my mind briefly, but I tried my best to shut it down. Aly (teammate) and I had talked about DNF’s in the past and we both agreed that we would have to be unable to walk to pull out of a race. I was still upright, so I was going to finish regardless. I thought about my teammates and it pushed me. I thought about my friends and family who have all supported me on this crazy journey and it pushed me.
When I started the race, I made a commitment to myself to give my very best, regardless of what happens. As the late miles slogged by, I continued to ask myself “am I giving my best?” and my response was always yes.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt spent. I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. My eyes welled up and I just wanted to sit down. The day did not go how I planned, but I crossed the finish line. All the hours in the pool got me to this moment and I crossed the line.
I was in a hurry to find the race results, to see how Courtney and Amber did. That was the only thing I wanted to hear after the race. I was delighted when I met up with them after the race and heard they both ran PR’s. None of us had the race we envisioned and our mood was heavy.
I learned so many valuable lessons this race… which will be for another post at a later date. One thing is for certain… I will be back to Chicago to conquer that course!
Now, on to planning my next race and run a little XC!
Splits according to my Garmin:
7:40, 7:07 ,7:40, 7:12, 7:24, 7:25, 7:27, 7:26, 7:31, 7:45, 7:45, 7:39, 6:36, 7:50, 7:40, 8:46, 9:09, 8:53, 8:37, 9:02, 9:10, 9:16, 9:31, 10:27, 9:48, 9:36,
- Running in a big city marathon with 45,000 other people and some of the best runners in the world.
- The fantastic race support – fans, staff and volunteers. Everyone was so encouraging.
- Running most of the race on very minimal road training.
- Be committed and trust the plan.
- Setting a “B” goal is not a bad idea. I waiver on this at times, because of the psychology of goal setting, but in an event like this I think it would have been wise for me to have a B goal for a quicker mental adjustment if things do not go as planned.
- Practice giving myself grace.
- I need to run more races.