Sunday, April 20, 2008
Suzie Petunia's SLC Marathon Race Report
Its hard to believe it is over. And it is even more difficult to believe how it all turned out: not at all as I expected. Just to re-cap... my goal was to qualify for next year's Boston marathon. To qualify I needed to run this race in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
My actual time: 4:03:37 This was my 4th marathon, and I ran 2 of them faster than this, and with a lot less training. Perhaps some clever "editing" would make me feel better:
3:37:04. Doesn't that look better? Unfortunately it just isn't true!
This race came with a lot of variables that were beyond my control. But at least I know that I did everything I could have to be prepared. The only thing I didn't do was appreciate just how many uphills there were going to be during the first half. I was able to stick to my goal pace for 12 miles, but my heart rate just kept creeping higher and higher with each uphill. And soon my legs were beat. The hill at mile 10 - 11 was brutal, and after it my pace really fell off. After mile 12 I realized that my body wasn't going to recover enough to be able to get back up to the pace I needed to be at to make my goal time of 3:40. It was a very strange realization and feeling knowing that my goal was unattainable, and yet I still had to put one foot in front of another for another 13 miles! The fire inside had been all but extinguished. And it felt like I had very little fuel left.
Speaking of fuel... I broke one of the cardinal rules of distance racing this time around: a mistake I will not repeat. I switched which brand of energy gel I was using. About a week before the race I realized that the kind I liked and had been using during training contained caffeine. Because I was determined to run this race based on my heart rate as well as my pace, I was worried about using a gel that could potentially raise my heart rate (because of the caffeine). I hadn't even tasted the new brand before the race, and much to my dismay I found it to be totally disgusting. It tasted salty and made me very thirsty. Thirst turned out to be one factor that I battled the entire race. After mile 12 I stopped taking my race "gu" and just drank the Gatorade and water at the water stations.
I felt absolutely parched the entire race. The climate is very dry in Utah - something my body is not accustomed to since I train in Oregon. My lips were very dry, and my wonderful husband hurried to a convenience store between 2 of the places where he watched me run and found some Carmex which did wonders. But the thirst was persistent. I also wonder about the medication I had taken to curb "runners' diarrhea". Not to get too personal (too late), but this is a real problem for many distance runners that just doesn't have an easy solution. I took some Immodium the night before and the morning of the race and it helped tremendously. But I wonder if it contributed to the problem I was having with thirst during the race.
I haven't even mentioned the wind yet! It was blowing steadily into my face during the first half of the race.
I had plenty of time during those last 13 miles to think about all of my excuses for not qualifying for Boston. Every time my mind wandered to this negative area, I repeated my mantra outloud: "Steady". I hadn't planned it ahead of time, but soon after the race started I began saying this word out loud to myself whenever my mind wandered into a non-productive arena. In the beginning it was to remind myself to stay "steady" on my pace. When I began to wonder if I would be able to keep up my pace it took on a different meaning: "Don't think negative thoughts!" And during the second half this word took on yet a different meaning: "Don't walk!" I am a little sad to admit that I walked at about 4 different times during the second half. It was only for a hundred yards or so - enough to get my heart rate to come down a bit and let my legs have a break. I've never walked before in a race. I hope I never have to do that again.
My cheerleaders were amazing throughout the race. As I mentioned, Taylor raced around himself all morning trying to catch me at different places in the course. It has grown a little fuzzy, but I think I saw him 4 different times. And my parents caught me at two different places. They had Alice in a stroller - she looked so cozy and relaxed in her snug little seat. I couldn't help but feel a little jealous. :) My parents held signs that said "Go Sarah!" and cheered their hearts out. I think I must have the most supportive family in the world. I really am so grateful to my sweet husband for making the trip just to help me during the race. And to my family for being there and being proud regardless of the results.
Just over 3 miles from the finish, Kelly caught up with me. I had been wondering the entire time how she was doing. I knew that since she hadn't passed me it wasn't likely that she was going to qualify for Boston either. It was a sad little reunion there at Liberty park where we acknowledged our goal was out of our reach. We both were not feeling well and were struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There were several race photographers during the last few miles, so at least we got our picture taken together! We made every attempt to pick up our feet and smile, but we have yet to see how they turned out. What does a smile look like when you are in tremendous pain? I guess we'll find out!
I have to say that I am really very grateful that we shared the last 3 miles together. It had been a very lonely race up to that point - especially the miles after mile 12. I hadn't talked to anyone and my music wasn't inspiring me the way it usually does. Sharing a pace with another person is a magical kind of thing. For some reason it seems a lot easier when you're running right along with someone else - especially an amazing friend like Kelly. We both felt terrible, but at least we felt terrible together! For the first time since we started running together, we crossed the finish line together. Finishing a little late with her was a lot better than having finished late and all alone.
My family was all there at the finish - and it was the strangest post-race celebration I've ever had. Everyone knew that I hadn't reached my goal, but they were all quick to tell me how proud they were anyway. Failure is an unwelcome feeling. But it was only a failure in my own eyes. Usually a failure is recognized as a universally identifiable event, but for a goal like the one I had, only I could recognize it for what it was. "Failure" seems like a strong term considering the circumstances, but I'm not sure what else to call it. Is it a failure if you only fall short because you unwittingly set the bar too high? The thing about running and racing is that when you are not an elite athlete there is no universally-recognized bar. Except for qualifying for Boston, of course.
After the race I started thinking about what it said on the back of my Marathon Mommies racing shirt: "The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race." I began to wonder just how this race had changed me. I had definitely been handed a slice of humble pie. And maybe that is the biggest change. But I wonder about what it says about the goals I set for myself. To be honest, I don't set goals very often because I am afraid of failing - in any area of my life. I wish I could say that by setting the goal to qualify for Boston, at least my PR (personal record) for the marathon was broken, even if I didn't qualify. But unfortunately that isn't the case. My PR remains at 3:44 from St. George of '07. God bless the beautiful down-hill course of the St. George marathon! I guess I have learned that hills can make or break my marathon. And if nothing else, I learned that if you set a goal and fail, it isn't really the end of the world. There is always next time. But running a marathon is a lot like childbirth: One just can't make the decision to go into it again any time soon after the event. But if I were to do it again... St. George might be a' callin' my name.
Even though the race didn't turn out how I had hoped, I had the time of my life - because I met so many of the Marathon Mommies that weekend! What an amazing group of women you all are! You are each beautiful, smart and confident. I admire each of you and feel blessed to be able to associate with you here on our blog. What a huge bonus-blessing it was to meet so many of you on Friday evening before the race! I hope this is the first of many races for us! St. George?... Anyone?