I always like to write a race recap when my legs are still sore and my memory is fresh. The details are so much more accurate. What tends to happen to marathoners is like what tends to happen to mothers after they've given birth. The story goes from the painful reality of what really took place to the foggy idea that somehow it wasn't that bad at all perhaps we'd like to do it again.... and again, and in my case with babies AND marathons, again.
I also feel the need to console my dear friend, Sarah, who believed with all her heart that yesterday would be THE day I ran a Boston qualifier. She certainly danced around saying that all week as to not cause any unnecessary pressure or anxiety for me, but she cannot fool me. She forgets that our friendship is so intertwined with running and that each of us knows how the other one thinks when racing. She used phrases like, "It's just a long run. Just like always. We are going to go out and have fun and get medals and chat about all sorts of things." Ummm, no. Not fooled one bit. Running 8:20-8:30 pace for 26.2 miles is not just "another long run" for either of us. Our long runs average about a minute slower. If on trails, even slower. Running that pace in a marathon (at least for me) is a race. No dancing around that fact. Mind you, Sarah is a naturally faster runner than I so this pace was really more like a faster training run for her. There is the difference. All things were not equal in that sense yesterday.
Before Burning River I decided that I would forego a fall marathon. I have run at least one every year since 2009. I made that decision assuming my recovery from BR100 would be much longer and more extensive. When I was back to running two weeks later and feeling pretty ok, I began to wonder if perhaps I could pull of a fall marathon. I then began to wonder just what would happen if I incorporated speed with all the miles I had in the bank. I could start adding in one to two speed workouts a week, combine that with the amount of endurance I had and just maybe, pull of a BQ. I pitched the idea to John, who by now just nods and says "Sure, ok. Good idea." Gone are the days he evens tries to reason with me about these things. That is why I love him so :). The catch was this... NO ONE WAS TO KNOW. I was going to tell NO ONE. I reasoned that the only true way I could relax and run an anything goes marathon, was to not have anyone tracking me. I realize that knowing you are being tracked on-line while you race fuels some to drive harder. For me, it zaps the energy right from me. It fills me with anxiety and I simply cannot run relaxed. It is the silliest thing ever and if I could help it, I would. I can't help that anymore than I can change my eye color. There is a young man on Will's cross country team who is a phenomenal runner, but he ran in only two meets this season. Bless his heart, he has such intense race anxiety that he simply cannot even start. When Will told me this, I was heartbroken for him. He could run circles around his teammates in practice, but the poor thing placed so much pressure on himself to perform that he just could not even get himself to the start. Although I can't fathom what that type of race anxiety must be like, to a degree I get it. I can't run circles around the people I run with, but I can certainly hang and train with them without difficulty. I like to use the quote that I read once about runners and why they are so addicted to running; "To those who do it, no explanation is necessary. To those who don't, no explanation is possible." That is what it is like trying to discuss race anxiety with someone who experiences it vs. someone who doesn't.
Not even one week after I decided that I would run this race secretly, I'm out running with Sarah. And damn it if I can't stand keeping it to myself another minute! So I tell her I'm thinking of running the Indianapolis Marathon under the radar. I tell her it is the week before the Stone Steps 50k, which by the way, we are both going to run. I figured she would tell me that it is a ridiculous idea and I should not. I thought she would say I was flirting with disaster and injury. That it was too risky to do that the week before an ultra. But ultras don't scare me anymore (well, the 100 miler did scare me). I love to run long. I love it very much. I just don't love to run long at a racing pace. But Sarah said something I completely did not expect. "I'll do it with you." Huh? No. No way. Forget it. I am not having her give up a Saturday in the fall with all the kids activities. Why the hell did I open my big mouth? "No, that's ok, Sarah. I really just want to do this on my own. Drive up that morning, run hard and come home. I don't want you to do this." "Oh come ON! It'll be just like a long run. It'll be fun! No pressure, we will just run. Seriously! It'll be my tenth marathon and I just want a medal. Plus, I know you can run a BQ. You have soooo much endurance and if you do speed, you are there." And she got me. Hook, line and sinker. I agreed to let her run with me.
We ran roughly two speed workouts together and I changed my mind. I decided I would rather run a really good Stone Steps than risk running two mediocre or crappy races two weeks in a row. I scrapped the idea of the Indianapolis Marathon and shifted my focus back to trails and distance, as did Sarah. Many weeks later, Sarah pitched the idea of running Indy again. "Why don't we just do it. Who cares what our time is? I really think we should." Ok great, but now Indy is about five weeks away, 2-3 of which are traditionally spent tapering. So we are now going to run this race having done not a whole lot of marathon specific speed training. We did a 6 pace run that very week and I thought I would die. It was miserable! Yes, it was warm. Yes, I was really tired and really sore from so much running. Yes, we did TRX and yoga that morning. But suddenly there was the reality that this was going to be a fight. And so I made the decision to taper big. The only way I would get through Indy was to simply rest. At this point, I could not gain anymore fitness for a race that close. I was either overdone from overtraining, lacked the speed component necessary, or both.
And so began the challenge of keeping it secret when our running group emails were flying around like crazy. What are you running? How long? What time? We are all constantly training for something... marathons, triathlons, duathlons. I mean, it is insane to keep up with what everyone is doing! I knew I needed a cover to defend my dramatic drop in mileage. The Stone Steps taper was my cover... and I wasn't lying! However I still worried someone would discover the full reason for such a long taper. The only other person outside of my household that knew was Erin. I accidentally sent Erin a text I intended to send Sarah and I had to explain. There was just no getting around it. So I fessed up and made her promise to keep it quiet, which she did :) Oh yes, and apparently Sarah had her mother and of course, husband, in the loop. I also told my mom, nonchalantly, on Friday afternoon. She came over to watch Lucy, who has been sick all week, while I went up to Indy to pick up our race packets. She asked if I was doing a marathon and I said, "Oh yes. Sarah and I are running Indy tomorrow for fun." Her reply was a very sweet, but unimpressed, "Oh that's nice, dear." I loved her response because I realized she didn't know I was racing for a BQ AND it has become normal to her that I just go out and run marathons. That actually was such a complimentary response :)
On to the good stuff! Sarah and I drove to Indy in the rain. We got to the start without a hitch and waited. I was so cold! It was about 50 degrees with a constant and cold drizzly rain. I had chosen to wear shorts and my favorite coral colored Team Mitch shirt, which actually ended up being perfect, but felt very inadequate at the start. Sarah handed me the official traveling St. Sebastian prayer card, which I tucked safely into my shorts pocket. The horn blew at 8:30 sharp and we were off! I have to say, I was in a good place mentally and physically. I felt relaxed and rested. It had been a tough week at our house. Lucy has been sick all week and was in our bed every single night, keeping us up most nights trying to keep her comfortable and listening to her cough. It's a miracle I didn't come down with what she has! But her feeling rotten forced me to stay home all week. It also allowed me to take naps with her during the day. Perfect for marathon week!
The first ten miles felt easier than I expected them to. I began to think that this might just happen after all. I know Sarah did too. For the next two miles, Sarah and I both fought needing to go to the bathroom badly. We kept waiting to spot a port o let and there just weren't any. When we FINALLY got to one right at mile 12, there was no choice in the matter. We HAD to stop. Unfortunately that stop set us back quite a bit. Our slowest mile up to that point was an 8:35, which we did on a hill. Mostly we ran in the 8:20s. Mile 13 was an 11:22, dropping our average pace nearly 20 seconds. Going into the restroom we were at an 8:27 average for the race so far, coming out, an 8:44. We had some catching up to do!
We picked up and ran. I have no idea what we were running at that point. Sarah was a pretty spot on pacer. Somewhere between miles 14-15, trouble began for me. Sarah said she knew exactly when it was because I stopped talking. The best way I can describe what it feel like when I accumulate lactic acid at a rapid pace is I get this burn that starts the top of my knees and begins to move up. My legs also become increasingly heavier. And so at that point it was trying to hang on to pace until I simply could not. The last mile I hit pace was mile 16. It was a quick decline and it was relentless. Mile 17 was an 8:44. And I won't lie... I was PISSED! I guess I just didn't expect it. Even though I knew I hadn't specifically trained to race this pace, I really didn't expect it to be a fight. At least not that early. So when the beginning felt as easy as it did, I somehow felt duped. And that, my friends, is the insanity of the marathon.
So I ran seriously ticked off for a couple of miles. Sarah was trying to get me to speed up and trying to encourage me. But when I get to that place, it only makes me madder. I was extremely sensitive and felt as though she thought I was sandbagging it. That it was maybe just soreness, but nothing I couldn't push through. I wanted to stop at one point and just look at her and say, "Do you really think I'm a freaking wimp? Do you not think I can handle pain when I run? Are you f*$king kidding me?? Do you not know I ran on BLISTERS FOR MILES with no sleep this summer? QUIT TALKING TO ME LIKE I CAN RUN FASTER, DAMMIT. I CANNOT!" Unbelievably, this was the point where she suggested a rosary. I did not tell her this yesterday. I was ready to flip out because I was just mad at the fact that I raced this stupid thing. And now, just like I feared, Stone Steps would just suck. Two crappy races in a row. Damn! When she said that, I nearly cried. Good old St. Sebastian in my pocket came to the rescue and diffused my anger through her simple and awesome suggestion. "Help me run the best I am able today..." was my prayer that day. I didn't know what that would mean. I was hoping it would mean a qualifying race, but I knew there is sometimes a bigger plan that I'm unable to see. I was beginning to become unglued and so to get me back on track to finish that bitch of a run, the Holy Spirit used this gal to get me to regroup. I don't imagine she realized she was being used in that way, but I sure did. She may think the race was a waste of a Saturday or of our energy when trying to get ready for next week. Pin a number on that girl and she just goes into super competitive racer mode. But I now see it as yet another stepping stone in our faith journey. Definitely NOT a wasted race.
I really couldn't help her say it, just like I couldn't help John during BR. She did it all. One decade at a time, with breaks in between. I won't lie... I was hating life and the f word was used frequently, but I was no longer angry. I knew it would end. I was certainly not in the same frame of mind that I was in July. How could this race, 1/4 the distance of that one, be SO MUCH HARDER for me? I decided (again) I hated racing marathons. I decided (again) I would never do it again. When I crossed the finish line, I (again) began thinking of a race strategy for the next attempt.
We finished in just under 4 hours. 3:59:21 is our official time. That is actually a new PR for us racing together. We did one other marathon together with Suttan and clocked a 4:02. I'll take it. We made 3 goals on the way to the race... Best case, sub 3:45... primary goal, sub 4 hours... fall back goal if all hell breaks loose, a finish.
Thanks for running with me, Sarah. You should consider a new career in pacing. Next weekend, I got your back.