I wasn't going to write a re-cap on this marathon because it was such a disappointment, but decided that was creating even more of a pity-party for myself; so here it is:
This was my 17th marathon, and most people think I wouldn't get nervous, but the week leading up to the marathon I was feeling nervous and very anxious, and not my normal nervous/excited feeling. I showed up at the start a ball of nerves and still doubting myself; but I had a plan to run with my new friend, Meredith, for her first marathon, as she had been running very similar training times to mine. We met up at the start area and used the porta-potties, talked strategy, prayed, and then lined up near the 3:23 pacer as we shed our warm throw-away clothes and tossed them to the side. Our plan was to stick behind them and in sight. The countdown began and then we were off! Meredith and I stuck together weaving in and out of the crowd, telling each other to stay relaxed and not go out too fast. We talked a bit and tried to tell ourselves, "we were just going on a long run together." We took it easy on the uphills and made it up a little on the down. I ate one of my bars around mile 5-6 and sipped water, we had planned to carry our own water through the first few aid stations so we didn't have to get caught in the crowd. First miles were 7:48, 7:39, 7:28, 7:36, 7:37, 7:40, 7:48, 7:46, 7:50, 7:48, 7:54. Around mile 10-11 is where I started feeling like I didn't have enough fuel to last me and I was working way harder than Meredith to maintain this pace, and a sharp pain in my lower back was starting; so after a short bathroom stop together, I told her to go. The combination of losing my running partner and low energy really made the mental doubt creep in. I tried to maintain my pace as I knew my family was at the halfway point...8:12, 8:31. I ate another one of my bars somewhere around here, and I briefly thought about just stopping and going home with my family, but I knew I wasn't a quitter. I saw my husband; and then my son, Jack, who jumped in next to me, "you can do this, keep going, stay with that 3:25 group!" Then he jumped to the side and I was on my own again.
I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and ignore the back pain, keeping an 8:21 for mile 14, but subsequent miles were not showing my effort level...8:56, 8:50, 9:04, 9:23, 9:29. I was starting to get passed by pace groups now, and fellow Fleet Feet members that tried to encourage me or get me to go with them. I tried to keep up with a couple of them from behind, but my legs just wouldn't go. My quads were burning like never before and the pain in my back was increasing, I had thoughts of quitting again, and realized today would be simply about finishing. A friend jumped in when she saw me and as I tried to explain to her what was happening and she saw how upset I was getting, she said, "I am not supposed to be running, but I'll just run with you for a bit, you're strong, you can finish." Jack texted me that he was going to be at mile 21, so that became my goal - get to 21...9:34 for mile 20. There was Jack right at 21, "come on, Mom, you can do it." I felt so bad that I was going so slow and he wouldn't even get warm, but he just kept telling me, "come on, you can do it, let's go, come on..." That's pretty much how the last 5 miles went, he would run slightly in front of me and keep me moving along telling me to keep going, if I started to say I couldn't go or breathing too heavily, he just kept telling me, "let's go, come on"...9:31, 9:29, 9:51, 10:49, 10:25, 10:00. As I crossed that finish line a flood of disappointment came on, this was not the race I envisioned or knew I was capable of, a 3:49, almost 25 minutes off of my goal time. It felt like I had let everyone down - my training partners, my team, myself included. Several friends saw me and hugged me. I found my family and they waited while I stretched and tried to make me feel better. I saw a few more friends on the way to the car and they hugged me and told me they were sorry, then we drove home. I even forgot to take my traditional picture with my kids in front of the Christmas tree with my medal.
So, I allowed myself to have my couple days of feeling sorry for myself, and tried to assess and move on. That's much easier said than done, but I'll get there. Several people have asked me, "what do you think happened?" I think it was really a combination of lots of things - All of my training had felt amazing since about a month ago, but I had not felt great since doing the Clarkburg 20 miler in early November. Most of my runs had felt a little more difficult, but I just figured that it would pay off come race day. I was feeling more tired all the time, but this was just part of marathon training. Both of these things were starting to make me doubt my race day ability, and a strong mind is crucial to a great race. My race fueling was obviously off, early on I felt like I didn't have enough in me. The low back pain that started about halfway through is something new, so I'll have to see if that comes up again after some rest.
I'm trying to remember all the great quotes out there: "You never know how strong you are until strong is your only option," "Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey," "Enjoy the journey as much as the destination," "Just finishing a marathon is an accomplishment," but this has made me question everything a little. A lot of my non-runner friends think since I've done a 3:28 marathon that it can't be that hard to do a 3:25, but no marathon is ever easy, it all has to come together. I know I'll continue going after my 3:25 marathon goal, just not quite sure when yet. In the meantime, I'll be training for Boston 2 Big Sur 2017 (after some recovery time). Happy running and keep chasing those goals!
P.S. Meredith went on to crush her first marathon, finishing with a 3:20!!