Sunday, May 24, 2015

CLE Marathon: Set A Goal So Big You Can't Achieve It Until You Grow Into The Person Who Can

On Saturday night, after watching some inspirational youtubes and reading some quotes to motivate me, I turned the light off and closed my eyes around 10:00pm.  I am not one to have a restless night of sleep the night before a race, but Saturday night was painful.  I feel like I was looking at the clock every hour until my alarm finally went off at 4:30am.  After my usual race morning breakfast (wasas w/ PB, honey, banana, and granola with a glass of water and coffee) and visiting with my dad and Anthony (and getting lots of doggie kisses), we were in the car headed downtown.  I sipped on OSMO Pre-load and jammed to some good music.  We arrived downtown around 6:15.  I was happy to have Anthony with me keeping me calm and making me laugh. 

We walked around a bit and took some pictures – it was nice to be in familiar territory, I love Cleveland.  Around 6:45 or 6:50, I put my fuel belt on (which had two 10oz bottles each with about 4.5 oz - 250calories - of INFINIT Napalm, topped off with H20).  As I waited in my corral, I went over my race plan in my head.  The marathon, half marathon and 10k all started at the same time so I knew a lot of people were going to be passing me (including the 3:25 and 3:30 marathon pacers) and I reminded myself that this was OK!  I ran 100% by feel for the first mile or so, only peeking at my watch to make sure the crowd of runners wasn’t causing me to go out too fast.  I am a fast finisher, not a fast starter and I didn’t want to ruin my race because I got caught up in the moment.

Miles 1-6 were great.  My watch had me averaging between 8:05 and 8:10 pretty much the entire time.  I felt spot on.  My plan was to try to hold that pace until the half way point and then pick it up to try to average closer to 7:40-7:50 for the latter half of the race.  Aside from the first water station I walked through them all, splashing water on myself and then having a cup to drink.

Miles 6-13:  By the half way point, my pace was still spot on - average pace was down to ~8:02 - 8:05/mi.  I was feeling good about my plan and started trying to pick up the pace a bit.  No problems! WOO HOO! I was definitely on track for a BQ and a PR.  Life is good.  I kept thinking “Man, I love this distance.”  Still walking through water stations as planned.  I was drenching myself in water at each aid station at this point because the heat and humidity were coming on strong.

Mile 13-16: The plan was still on track and I was feeling good!  My nutrition was spot on – a big gulp of napalm every 15-20minutes and the heat and humidity didn’t seem to be getting to me too much as long as I stayed up on my nutrition and continued my aid station strategy.

Approaching mile 17… my calf tried to cramp.  I said no.  I started taking sports drink at the aid stations on top of H20 and my nutrition in hopes that would prevent any more cramping.  I assumed it was due to the heat.  I continued chugging along.

Mile 17.5… I had a cheering section, yay!  What a great pick me up after my first little bit of pain. 

Miles 17.5-22… UGH.  MY QUADS!! OUCH!! The cramping was full on.  When I was running, it was at a decent clip, but I had to stop a few times to walk and rub out my quads.  Holy moly I’ve never had quad cramps – yikes!  I looked at my wrist and my hand – I had two mantras.  #1 was simple “ATTITUDE”  #2 was profound: “Just when you want to give up, you are about to have a breakthrough.”  Just the pick-me-up I needed.  I continued on, but my average pace continued to slow as I had to walk to rub out my quads.

Miles 22-24 I was really struggling physically, but mentally I was just so grateful.  Even through the pain of the cramps, I was just thinking about how much I LOVE this distance.  I saw my PR slowly slipping away.  I hated that.  I tried to run faster when I was running, but the cramps kept coming back causing me to take more frequent short walk breaks.  I gave myself a bit of a longer walk break and really tried to rub out the cramps to see if I could just finish without any more walking. My avg pace was no longer on track for a PR or a BQ.  That’s ok, I thought.  This has been an amazing day. 

Miles 24-26 I pushed these as hard as I could.  In the last two miles, two women who looked so incredibly strong passed me as they ran to the finish.  I love seeing strong women succeed in sport!   At this point, part of me was upset, I was supposed to be done by now, I was supposed to be passing people. But, part of me was just so grateful that this is how my journey was ending.   I didn’t BQ or PR.  What I did do was learn that my body is strong and resilient.  My mind is even stronger.  I did not give up at any point.  I pushed hard through cramps that would have sidelined many runners.  I smiled while I did it.  I encouraged others to find that strength to finish strong.  I fell deeper in love with 26.2 miles.

Miles 26-26.2 I saw Anthony cheering me into the finish and yelling “YOU LOOK STRONG!”  I finished strong.  I finished with a smile.  I finished proud.  I finished in 3:38:12.  Then I had a beer (ok, I had three...they had Great Lakes on tap at the finish!).

Finishing Strong & Happy

At that start line of a marathon, you don’t know what the day is going to present you with.  You can train for a 3:25 marathon and run a 3:38 like I did.  Or you can train for a 3:35 marathon and run a 3:25.  What I do know, is that I felt smarter, more confident, and more capable running this race than I have ever felt.  I can’t control whether my quads are going to cramp, I can just do everything in my power to avoid that.  So regardless of time, the Cleveland marathon was a huge success because: a) I started which was questionable (see my previous blog) b) I stayed so mentally strong through all 26.2 miles and c) I could really taste that 3:25 finish.  I ran smart and I felt strong.  For me, that time on the clock is so much less important than the mental breakthrough(s) that happened along that course.  

So, after 10 days of NO RUNNING, I will ease back into training for the summer.  I have plans to race in a sprint tri in June and the Cleveland Olympic Tri in July, but the real goal for this year has not changed.  I am ready to get after it and run another 26.2 for a PR and a BQ.  So on Saturday, September 12, I will chase my dreams again as I run the Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Marathon on the C&O Towpath.

Never stop believing in yourself.  Never stop chasing your dreams.  And most importantly, never stop learning.  Every time life knocks me down, I get up so much stronger and smarter.  The lessons I learned training for and running the Cleveland marathon will stick with me forever.  Thank you body.  Life is good.

Thank you to my family and support system - it was so special having all of you out there cheering!  Mom, Dad, Mama Nelson & Bill, Aunt Sue, Grandma & Grandpa Amato, John H, and of course my amazing Coach/Hubby!!! 

Post Race Happiness

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