This race was much more than just a race to me.
You see, racing has kinda become an objective gage to how I am doing mentally/emotionally, as well as physically. Especially when the race is a marathon. No matter how physically fit you are, marathons require mental & emotional strength & toughness. For me, I know that I am in a good place mentally & emotionally if I can race well. It’s kinda silly but it seems to be an accurate gage. I.E. when Nate was going through cancer I got to a place where I felt so strong and tough. No matter what hard things we were going through, I felt like I could handle them well. That toughness transitioned over into my running too. Every race I ran during that time I did really well. I felt like I had broken through some mental barriers that had held me back in the past and it made me feel so….just solid. I loved it.
I got to a great mental point, and then I didn’t race for over 2 years. I got pregnant with Corra, then it took me a year to actually race after having her. During those 2 years I had a period of time where I actually felt REALLY weak mentally/emotionally. I’ve mentioned it HERE, but I feel like cancer, moving, job switching, and just LIFE caught up to me. I had a lot of anxiety and just felt like I couldn’t handle a lot. I felt like I took 2 giant steps back and really had to process everything. Luckily I got over it pretty quickly but I never had any ‘objective’ things that I could measure my mental state against.
Going into this race I was SUPER nervous. More nervous than I can remember being in a LONG time. Physically, my training had been blah. Really low miles, only a handful of workouts, not at my race weight, etc. Just didn’t feel super prepared. But the thing that really got me nervous was the mental side of it. I had no idea if I was going to be able to race tough, or revert back to my old ways where I let the anxiety & any little thing make my races go poorly. I was actually dreading the race; I kept thinking things like, “why do I put myself through this?” “I don’t want to have anything that I can judge myself against” “It’s so much easier to just ‘float’ through life. Never having any objective measures; just keeping my kids alive & happy and calling it good”
I legit was about to throw in the towel and never really go after anything again. For some reason I was terrified of being ‘judged’ because I had no clue how I was going to measure up/I didn’t feel close to my ‘former’ self where I felt rock solid mentally/emotionally.
I knew I had to do it though. I had to put myself out there and just see where I was at. I’m someone that is very driven by objective measures…I loved getting ‘A’s in school. I loved getting a new PR in a race. I love seeing a room after I renovate it. I love seeing my progress. And even though I was terrified to see where I ‘was at’, I knew that I had to be brave and not let my anxiety keep me from doing things I know I love. I couldn’t let my anxiety keep me from progressing.
So there I was, the night before the race. Laying in bed, heart racing, watching the (very few) hours I had to sleep tick away. When my alarm went off at 2:55 am I think all the sleep I got was dozing off here and there. I was actually super thankful to actually be heading to the race. I think if I had anymore time beforehand I would have gotten sick with nervousness! The morning of I felt much calmer than I had the entire week before. I threw on my race clothes with many layer on top then drove with our friend Dylan (he raced the half) down to catch a bus to take me up the canyon.
Sitting on the bus I started to remember & feel why I do this – I was chatting with a lady that had traveled here from Mississippi just for the race. We chatted about all the different races we had done and it helped me feel the excitement and love for racing again. Once we got to the starting area I hoped off the bus and was instantly freezing. Luckily they had some fires going so I huddled up with others around a fire, sat down, and tried to take my mind off the upcoming feat. Again, I slowly was feeling that love & understanding of why I race more and more as the morning went on. Sitting by the fire I chatted with total strangers like they were my best friends. There is such a strong camaraderie between runners that’s unlike anything else.
About half hour before the gun went off I visited the port-a-potty & was able to empty my bowels. Yuck, I know. But you runners know how important/relieving it is to feel empty before you get to the start line! After that I popped my pepto bismol to make sure my tummy kept feeling good, took off all my layers, threw my bag in the truck to be taken down to the finish, then wrapped in a blanket and headed to the start line.
As I was headed to the start I saw my girl, Hilary, who I had ran at the University of Utah with. I haven’t seen her in years so I was so happy to see her! As we were on the start line I was able to see a few other friends. Again, the camaraderie between runners is the best. Standing on the start line I felt more comfortable chatting with my girls than I had the entire week leading up to the race. I FINALLY felt ready for the race 5 mins before the gun went off haha.
My girl, Hilary 🙂
After the gun went off I ran with my friends for a few miles. They are super fast though and had big goals so I let them go after a few miles. Nate and I talked about a race plan and I knew I needed to go out slow – especially not knowing what I could do. After letting Hilary go, I had a few miles alone. I was feeling really good except I felt like I couldn’t quite get enough air into my lungs. I knew it was probably just from the nerves so for a mile I focused on taking deep breaths and getting my body full of oxygen. Luckily the course is BEAUTIFUL – it helped a lot to relax my body by just being able to focus on the beautiful landscape. At about mile 5 (I think, I was trying hard not to pay attention to mile markers or splits – I was just trying to get into the ‘zone’) I came up on a girl and started chatting with her. I’m definitely a social runner and it helps time go by so much faster if I am running with someone. So I struck up a conversation and we ended up running the next 3 or so miles together. We talked about being moms, the different races we had run, and she gave me encouragement that life does get easier when your kids get older haha (she’s a Momma to 5 kids, youngest being 2). I was reminded & felt yet again why I love running so much. I was able to have a good conversation with a totally stranger in the middle of a marathon. But we were both runners. Both mothers. We had a silent bond.
I lost my friend (Cami) at an aid station and continued on solo. From that point on (I think it was around mile 7 or 8?) I ran pretty much by myself. I took a gel at mile 7 (a mile later than planned…I was too busy chatting haha) Then I yo-yo back and forth with a few guys but never had anything running right next to me (well, at least nobody unplanned). From about mile 9 – 13 there are some rolling hills. I reminded myself it was all about effort, not pace. So on the uphills, I would hold a steady effort, and then on the downhills I would open up. I wanted everything to be very controlled though. I knew I needed to get to half way feeling good if I was going to be able to survive.
There is a big downhill to take you into the halfway point. As I was coming down the hill I was super surprised to see that the clock said 1:30:30! Like I mentioned above, I made it a point to not look at my pace or splits really – I was trying to run it all by feel and staying within myself. It gave me a big boost to come through half that fast feeling very controlled. I already had a blister, and my hip was achy, but I was doing great at ignoring the little things and just rolling along.
I took another gel right before half way then buckled in till I was planning to see Heidi (my sis) or Nate at mile 15 or 16 who would have my other 2 gels I needed to take. They were planning on taking turns riding beside me. I made it to mile 15 ish and saw Nate. There is something about seeing a familiar face (especially husband familiar) during a marathon; gives you such a boost. He started running beside me for a few mins to ask how I was doing and everything. I told him I was starting to feel it but still felt controlled. He told me Heidi was trying to make her way up on her bike but the cops weren’t liking it (when I ran it in 2014 Nate rode up & beside me and didn’t have any complications…no we know better). He told me that she had my gels and she should be there by mile 17 or so when I needed to take another one. After I left Nate I started to climb the biggest hill of the race around mile 16. When I ran in 2014 I almost quit while running this hill. But this year I rolled up it. As I got to the top I was stinging a little but still felt strong. It made me feel so good knowing how well I was doing. Well mile 17 came and went and no Heidi. I started to actually feel a little queasy/hungry. I could feel my energy stores slipping a little but I tried to ignore it. I kept telling myself that drinking gatorade at the aid stations was good enough and I was fine and to just take one mile at a time.
Nate running beside me for a second.
Finally at mile 19 I saw Heidi and Nate! I was so happy haha. Heidi started running with me and Nate said he was going to drive down a little further to run the last 4-5 miles with me. Heidi got me my gel and I tried to take it as fast as I could (which isn’t fast at all haha, it takes me like mile to eat a full one). I knew I needed to get some fuel in me. By the time I got it all down we came out of the canyon. Once out of the canyon on this course it’s still slightly downhill but not too much and there is a slight uphill too. For me, it’s definitely the very hardest part of the course – the last 6 miles. From that point on I never felt worse, but definitely didn’t have anything more to push it in the last little bit. I tried to hang on to my pace, but at that point I was in survival mode. I had to force myself into a zone just to keep running. I slowed down a little but at that point I knew in order to get a sub 3 hour marathon I had to speed UP and that was not happening. I was pretty depleted. So I put my head down and just gritted through.
Heidi getting me through.
A little after mile 21 Heidi handed me off to Nate and he ran by me. By this point I wasn’t talking at all & like mentioned, just in the zone. I don’t actually remember these miles too much really haha. I remember my body feeling completely numb and dead and I was just forcing one foot in front of the other. My body was struggling, but my mind was still holding strong. I was still feeling calm. There were a few times in these last few miles I would look up & see the finish line and almost immediately would start to panic because I didn’t think I was going to make it. Everytime this happened, I put my head right back down and forced myself to stop thinking; to zone out and just run. Luckily I was able to.
Nate getting me through.
For the last 3 miles Dylan (who had taken 3rd place overall! had jogged back to us) & Heidi also joined in. I was thankful that they were all just chatting around me because I was trying so hard to focus on anything but the finish line or how I felt. With about a mile to go they started trying to motivate me to pick off some people in front of me. I was half very grateful with their encouragement, half cussing them out in my mind because all I could do at that point was keep moving and had nothing more to catch people. With about half mile to go though I took a deep breath, looked up, and just gave every ounce I could muster to get to that finish line! With the help of the crowd & my girl, Meghan, who were cheering I was able to catch the 2 guys in front of me and get to that line! There is nothing better than finally making it to the end of a marathon!
My official time was 3:03:13. A time I am very happy with 🙂 There was an outside chance I could have broken 3 hours, but not fueling quite right/my lack of training caught up with me. To be honest, I don’t know if a 3:03 was really even supposed to happen so I was super proud of it.
And really, it isn’t the 4 min PR that I’m proud of. All that 3:03 means to me is that I’m still mentally/emotionally capable of hard things – of things that I didn’t think and honestly probably shouldn’t have been able to do. It gives me so much confidence that I can still be tough even and perform well even when everything was against me – my training had SO many hiccups & never was what I wanted, I hadn’t raced in 2 years, I had been battling some anxiety, during the race I didn’t fuel quite right, I had a blister that hurt for more than half the race, my big toenail was coming off…there were SO many valid reasons why I shouldn’t have ran well. But, I did. Mentally, I was able to force myself into the zone where none of that mattered. All that mattered was each mile…each step I took and what I could do about that.
Uncle “Dilly” (Dylan) who took 3rd in the half with a 1:06!
My girl, Meghan
Nothing better than seeing my babies afterwards.
Of course I love getting a PR, but what I really love are the lessons that transition into life from them. I now have an objective measure that I am still tough…that no matter if my husband has cancer, if I feel anxious or fearful, if mothering is hard, if money is tight, if things don’t go as planned…I know I can handle it. I know I am tough enough to keep putting down one foot after another. I am tough enough to rise up & handle more than I think.
I can make it to the finish line.
Next time you are scared to do something, don’t feel quite prepared, or don’t think you can handle it- all of which I was for this marathon – take a deep breath, get yourself to the starting line, & just go for it. Because chances are, you’ll surprise yourself with how tough & capable you actually are – just as I did for myself with this marathon.
Even though I’m hobbling around & fall asleep any chance I get, I am hungrier than I have been for a long time! That rust is busted off, my confidence is fueled, and I’m ready to really back to it – both in running & life!
So, as my rambunctious 3 year old always says…
“Let’s do it!!”
-till next time-