I finally sat down to look at my data in TrainingPeaks from Shamrock marathon this past Sunday. I avoided it until today because I didn’t want to see what could have been if I didn’t have to stop to use the bathroom. But let me back up and start at the beginning…
I had a goal. I was trained and ready for it, too. And I wanted it so badly. Back in 2011 I had my sights set on a 3:30 marathon and came up short with a 3:35. In the days leading up to this race I had the flu and while I fought as hard as I could for this outcome I felt gypped that my chance was taken away from me. Immediately after that race, my racing turned toward long course triathlon and the stand alone marathon fell to the back burner. Then back surgery happened and I had a good 2 years with no long course racing at all. Through all those years though I could not let go of wanting that 3:30 marathon and it became a goal again in 2017. Last year didn’t go as planned so I had even more fire in me to make it happen this year.
The past few years the weather has been horrific in VA beach for the race but this year the weather was great; sunny, dry and to start, a light headwind. My plan was to break the run up into four 10k chunks and to stay only in the moment of each segment. No looking forward, no looking back.
First 10k my goal was to settle in and find that 7:59 target pace. It always takes me a few miles to find my groove and I told myself to not let the beginning of the race rattle my nerves if things didn’t feel good. Well, that wasn’t the case and from the second we started, I felt great. I found my pace immediately, without much effort, and clocked my first mile at 8:00min/mi. I started with my fueling at mile 2 and unfortunately, at mile 3 I knew my stomach wasn’t 100%. I was feeling too good to break my stride so I decided to not stop and see if things settled down as the race went on. I paid really close attention to my pace for the first 10k; I felt so good and didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Several times I had to pull myself back and remind myself that this was just my warm up. First 10k was right on target with an average 7:58 pace.
For the next 10k I wanted to hold steady and use any tail wind to my advantage. I knew when we turned around just past mile 18 that I would have a head wind to the finish so if I could let the wind carry me a bit here, I was going to do it. I saw Andy and friends around the half way point and the pace was still feeling great. My left hamstring was starting to bother me (a side effect issue from the back) but I was happy to have made it that far without it hurting. My stomach was cranky at this point and I was pretty certain a bathroom stop would be necessary. Second 10k flew by and still on target with an average 7:57 pace.
Just after seeing Andy we made our way onto the boardwalk and I knew this is where I would have to start to dig with the final two 10ks to go. With the wind at our back it was toasty up there but the sun felt really good. The portion on the boardwalk is mentally tough for me. The concrete kills my legs and I think it’s boring. I tried to look at the ocean and appreciate where I was at the moment and how thankful I was to be there. When I saw the sign that said you’re leaving the boardwalk I smiled, excited to be back out on the road. But uh oh, we left the boardwalk and had a short turn in the opposite direction and I got a taste of the headwind we’d have on the way back. Eeek. It had really picked up since the start of the race. Another quick turn and it was at our back again and we were heading up over the one “hill” which is an overpass. My pace slowed for this mile to an 8:09 and it became a ‘must find a port o’ potty situation’. This was at mile 16 and knowing the course I knew I had a ways to go until the next aid station. Needless to say, it was a long 2 miles to get there but thankfully I made it! I hustled the best I could but came out of the bathroom with time to make up, about 2 minutes! I was pissed I had to stop but I had no choice. I kept telling myself what my coach told me about controlling the “now” and not worrying about what’s to come or what happened. The bathroom happened. I had to let that go and focus on the final 10k to come.
Going into the bathroom my mile 17 split was 7:56. Coming out, mile 18 was 9:16. Yikes! But I was ready to fight to get the pace back down. Unfortunately just past mile 18 we turned around and little did I know I was about to begin the hardest 10k of my life. The wind was now a head wind and definitely slowed me down. There weren’t many runners around at this point so it was hard to find someone to tuck in behind. I was hoping once we turned to go through the military base I’d find some relief but that didn’t really happen. The buildings offered little protection. My stomach was cramping at this point and my right leg was doing most of the work and it was starting to feel pretty beat up. My left leg isn’t 100% since surgery and a lot of times it is just along for the ride. It also didn’t help that I was really favoring that hamstring by now. Everything was feeling so hard but that was what I expected and I kept telling myself that. I knew the final 10k would be work and I practiced this in training over and over.
When we got back up to the boardwalk for the final few miles I felt like I wasn’t moving. I was pushing but not making much headway. I watched my total time knowing I had to fight hard to hang on for a PR. The windiest miles, 23-25, I slipped to a 8:25, 8:32, 8:46 respectively. We hopped off the boardwalk just after mile 24 and doing the math I knew a 10min/mi would get me a PR. What I didn’t know is that I was 0.2mi ahead of the race mile markers. When I turned onto the boardwalk and I was already at 26.2 I had to give every ounce of what I had to get to the finish. I pushed so hard I thought my legs were going to give out, I made some really ugly noises and faces, but I managed to finish with a minute PR and a time of 3:34.
Immediately after crossing I stood there crushed, tears of disappointment streaming down my face. Don’t get me wrong, I PR’d. I qualified again for Boston. I ran a hard fought marathon and finished in an a solid time. I am grateful. I am proud. But man, what if…lot’s of what if’s today. Aside from the bathroom stop and the wind, both which were pretty much out of my control, I feel like I executed really well. A few times I thought about throwing in the towel that final 10k and I didn’t. I let it hurt and when it hurt I tried to push even more. I can honestly say I did what I could and that alone will carry me even further in my races to come. I know I have that 3:30 in me and I am learning hard goals can take several tries. Like my coach said last night “fall down 10 times, get up 11.”
Long course racing can be very humbling. And now that the tears have stopped and the disappointment is fading, I’m looking for my next attempt at this in the Fall. It WILL happen.
6th/73 in AG, 45/592 female, 237/1476 OA