I love the quote, “If Plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters.”
Mt. Charleston, part of the Revel Race Series, was Plan B.
Before going to Boston my husband and I had a long talk, I was deep in taper trauma and having one of those “what-if” meltdowns: what if it’s too hot, what if I get sick, what if I don’t sleep, what if it’s an off day. The what if’s were mingled with tears. And my final probing what if was, if it doesn’t happen in Boston then what about trying Mt. Charleston and my sweet, supportive husband said, “okay.”
I knew going into Boston that because of the difficulty of the course, the fickleness of New England weather in the spring, and the toll of travel that getting a sub 3 would be challenging. But I also knew that the oldest and greatest marathon deserved my very best, so that’s what I gave it. Still, I came up short. 46 seconds short (I would have been happy with a 2:59:59). But it wasn’t the heartbreaker I thought it would be because I didn’t see it as missing my goal, if anything it gave me the confidence boost that a sub 3 was possible.
To be honest, when I emailed my coach after Boston, he wasn’t thrilled with my choice to turn around and race another marathon. He felt like it would be smarter to take some time off, that I hadn’t really trained for a lot of downhill, and even warned me against the injury risk that increases exponentially without properly resting my body. But when I explained that my heart was in it, he came up with a recovery/maintenance plan for the 18 days in between the two races.
Before I knew it, race weekend was here…again. We drove down to Las Vegas on Friday, checked into our hotel, and breezed through packet pickup. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who had run the entire course, so we decided to drive it, and I’m so glad we did. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the course wasn’t as steep as I had expected, that being said, every time I drive 26.2 miles, I really am struck by the enormity of the challenge, it’s a long, long way.
My alarm went off at 3:30 am and I got ready with plenty of time to meet my friends in the lobby at 4:15. Meeting up with my friends turns the nerves into excitement, I am so thankful for the support, laughs, well wishes, and knowing nods of runner friends. We loaded onto charter buses which was a really nice touch and headed up the course. We only had about 40 minutes at the start, so we quickly got in the porta-potty lines, stripped down, took a quick picture, and did a warm-up. The mountains were breathtaking, the clouds sat low and the gentlest of snow began to fall. I wasn’t calm necessarily, but I felt relaxed, more relaxed than I’ve ever been at the start of a marathon. I thought of the quote by Des Linden, “Fast running isn’t forced. You have to relax and let the run come out of you.” I had time for a quick prayer, 3 deep breaths, and the gun went off.
I was so happy be running with my friend Aubree, she and I were able to run together until about mile 12 , it’s always such a comfort to not be running alone. From the beginning I felt a laser like focus on the task ahead of me. I was thinking things like relax, run, drop your arms, fuel, and hydrate. Even though we started with snow flurries, I knew that the elevation and the dry climate could increase my chances of dehydration. I came to a full stop at almost every water stop (about every 2 miles) and drank 1 cup of water. I know it costs time, but failing to hydrate early on will cost the race (I have learned that lesson the hard way). I ran without music until mile 6 and the moment my music goes in, I really get into the groove of running, the run just starts to click. But it’s not all perfect. There are two things that have really helped my to gauge and redirect the challenges that will arise over the course of 26 miles. First, is the simple mantra where I repeat, “This will not ruin my race.” It puts me in the mind frame of problem solving or overcoming the present obstacle, like an unplanned pit stop at mile 9. It cost me time, but it was not going to ruin my race. Second, after reading the amazing Tina Muir’s blog, I learned to identify what she calls “panics” in my race. This time there were 3: a calf cramp, a stomach upset after took Aleve (due to the calf cramp), and miles 22-24. Since I recognized these as panics, I didn’t let them turn to blow-ups. I slowed down, I took deep breaths, I assessed, and then I carried on.
I had been running as third female, but seeing my little family and especially hearing my daughter cheering her heart out gave me the boost I needed to fight for second around mile 21. When I passed the third female, we shared a little moment. I told her she was doing great and I was going to try to push for the next two miles. She was so encouraging and positive. I love that kind of supportive competition between runners.
Miles 22-24 were tough. I was deep in the pain cave and trying to focus my mind on my tempo runs. I was thinking of this part of the race as just another set of 2 mile repeats. I kept repeating in my mind the 6:40 pace that I was hoping for. When I hit mile 23, I felt some relief. I kept telling myself that even if I ran a 10 minute mile, I will come under 3 hours. By mile 25, I knew it was done, I felt my intensity lessen, and I was filled with gratitude and joy. Each step brought me closer to my goal, the finish line, and two people I love the most. When I crossed the finish line I saw Amber, my training partner and the First Female with a PR of 2:35, and more than anyone she understands the sacrifices and the work it took to get there. We hugged, I cried, and then I saw Joe and Megan and my whole heart was bursting with happiness. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
There were a lot of moments when I questioned the merit of this dream, it certainly takes a toll on my life, but I held onto the hope that it was possible.
I can’t help but think of the beautiful words by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”
Whatever dreams are perched in your soul, continue to chase them, keep fighting for them, and never ever give up hope.
Happy running friends!
What’s your next race?
What is the hope and dream you’re chasing?
I would LOVE to answer any questions about this race! Ask away!