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 kno
w 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 w
as 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 outlou
d: "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 qua
lify 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?


Jen said...

Wow, I am truly amazed, by several things about your race day report. The most amazing this is that you are calling your time a failure! My dear, that is no failure, and Boston-Smoshton. I know, you want to punch me right now, but seriously-- you completed a MARATHON-- and it's not your first-- and you did it at a rate of speed hardly ANYONE can do! And, did I mention it's a marathon?!?!? I think it was not the race day many of us had hoped for, but God has a funny way of teaching us lessons. One of my many lessons learned this race was a marathon is more about the journey to get to the finish line that actually crossing it.

I am so proud of you and M&M! You two rock my socks, and I can only hope to one day have a time like that! Way to go, girl!

Chelle said...

I am honored to call you my friend.

love you!

Charity said...

I think just finishing has been inspiring for everyone! Thanks for posting about your journey..I can't say that it makes it any easier, but if you did the best you could do, that's all that's asked...

Nice job...and nice legs ladies:)

wind runner said...

Thank you so much for that post. I have tears in my eyes right now. It was very touching and heartfelt. I know how you feel. I didn't qualify for state in the mile my senior year and I was expected to by everyone. What you said in your post took me right back to the feelings I had! I can totally relate to the disapointment. It's hard to appreciate accomplishment in the shadow of "failure." But I am with Jen when she completed a marathon...what an amazing acomplishment! You have learned from your experience and your next marathon will be amazing! And I am totally in for St. George! (If I get in that is) I love the idea of having a running mate- DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! and CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Maggs said...

I have to agree with the others Sarah--you finished a marathon and it's not your first either. I hope to just have that experience someday. I know that you are disappointed in the results--but you are still amazing in my eyes. (wish I could have met you, I regret not coming to the dinner at your parents house...)

lisamarie said...

I can't even imagine running 26 miles in 4 hours. Reading your comments and a few of the others coming in so far, it sounds like it was indeed a rough day for many. I can't help but think that perhaps there was a greater purpose in all this than the race itself -- which is that your story and all the others have inspired one another in ways you'll probably never fully know. Running is a very personal thing, yet sharing the experience gives it so much more meaning. I'm sorry you didn't reach your goal, but you will. "Life is a succession of moments, and to live each, is to succeed."

I haven't even run my half yet (i'm only up to 10 miles so far) but I can think of nothing better than to throw my hat in the ring for St. George. AAAAAA! The mere thought scares me to death but if I follow the inspiring example of the other MM's, I know I will do it. That is a moment I look forward to.

Anniebananie said...

Oh you are so inspiring! I am SO proud of you! I have tasted failure before in other areas of my life and it IS hard. But man it makes the success the next time around AMAZING! I BELIEVE IN YOU! You will make it to Boston and you will set a new PR. You are a HERO to me. I hope one day I can run in at your time. It was so fun to meet you the other night. Keep Moving Forward!

workout mommy said...

I have to agree with the others, you are not a failure! You are a finisher and a champion who kept moving forward, even when you realized you were not going to meet your goal. Congratulations!
(and St. George sounds awesome!)


Team Hanni said...

Suzie -

I can't tell you what it was like for me to watch you and M&M at the gateway. My husband was at the corner and gave me the call that two marathon mommies were coming. It was like seeing two celebrities for me.... seriously :)

You have taught me so much and I am amazed at this SLC marathon journey has taken several of us.

I'm in for St. George - probably in 2009 - but I am in!!!

Team Hanni said...

P.S. whomever the awesome mommy who brought my marathon shirt to the hotel.... THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! You made my day! You ladies are wonderful!

M&M said...

Suzie-it meant more to me than you will ever know to cross the finish line with you by my side. We have been through so much together and now we are sharing this disappointment. I am proud of both of us for finishing a race we felt miserable in. It will make qualifying for Boston that much sweeter when it does happen. Yep, that's right, it WILL happen! I don't think I am up for St. George, but give me a few more days to think about it. :-) You are most definitely not a failure, you are amazing in every way and I love you!!!

cherl said...

Loved your race report. Always love reading your thoughts. Even when things are tough, you find the positive and humor in them. I'm sorry it wasn't the race you wanted. I think you are great and know that your BQ is just waiting out there for you. Won't be long now!!

JP said...

I just have to tell you how proud I am of you. It would seem that Saturday didn't go as so many of us had planned. Disappointment can be so hard to take.

What is amazing to me is how much you've done for this marathon. Not just the training (which is HUGE, don't get me wrong.) But what you've done to bring the Marathon Mommies you inspire people like me to keep running. You have this amazing talent...not only for running marathons (because OH MY WORD you are AWESOME) but also the "spirit" you bring to the event.

You inspire me daily.

Cotter said...

I am sorry the race didn't go as planned but think it is so awesome you kept running! That was probably way hard, knowing that you weren't going to attain your goal. I am so impressed with you and M&M.

Mindy said...

I think you all are amazing! Thanks for the inspiration! I was looking for "marathon mommies" during the half, but must have been in a different part of the pack! Good job to you all, and my goodness, a 4 hour marathon is anything but a failure! Failure is giving up and I don't think anyone did that! Way to go, ladies! I hope to meet you all someday!