Monday, April 21, 2014

Sometimes A Race Is About More Than A PR (SLC Marathon 2014)

The much needed pre-race carb load.
   Saturday marked the beginning of running season for me by the running of the Salt Lake (half) Marathon. This was not a race that I was supposed to run. I got re-injured (darn you plantar fasciitis) and was not able to run at all when Mark found a sale on the race on Groupon. Based on current circumstances, Mark bought an entry for himself only. Then all that changed when he hurt his IT Band I was able to run again. This became my race.
   I did more training than I had done last year in preparation for the Boise half we ran last May. Speed training? Check. Some hill training? Check. Longer long runs? Check and check. I was ready. And best of all, thanks to my good friend Josh, I was introduced to a great group of Utah runners and was going to run with a great group of friends! This race was going to be epic.
A little pre-race runners gone wild.
Lined up for the start. I was mid-pack.
   I was able to meet up with my group the morning of the race and met a lovely lady, Shelley, who is a slightly faster runner than I am, which would help me make a between 2:30-2:45 finish. By the time the race started, I was pumped and ready for the race. I had heard from a friend that had seen the course that it was pretty hilly the first 5 miles, so I was mentally preparing to just get through them as best as I could and then crush the end. Sure, the course was going to be tough. I didn't give it enough credit. It was brutal. Apparently we ran downhill just over 2000 feet and uphill just over 1500 feet. Yikes! And the hills didn't stop until around mile 8. It was more than I was really prepared for.
Made it the first 3.1 miles and what a view!
My new lovely friend Shelly. What a blessing to me she was!
   But I was a very blessed lady. Shelley was amazing to run with. She was upbeat and just enough faster than me to keep me pushing myself. I was right on target for my 2:30 PR at mile 5 and just under it by mile 7. And that is during the hill portion! I was hurting, but I had being running for around 1.5 hours on hills. I was going to pull it out. Then, we hit a steep STEEP 2 block climb around mile 8. Despite great crowd support and Shelley's encouragement, I knew I was going to lose it. It was one hill too much. And despite the rest of the course being mostly flat, I started praying I could pull it out.  Then the answer to my prayers came at the next watering station.
This race featured some great signs. These lovely people were on the bottom of the last hill.
The joyful reunion.
   Mired deep in my thoughts, worried I was going to hold up poor Shelley, who was having a great run and was ready to finish strong, I heard her say "Great! A watering station. And Josh!" I knew right then that things were turning around for me. Josh, who had spent the previous days and nights at Salt Lake's Comic Con working with his brother and doing late night ghost hunts was running on just 6 hours of sleep the last 48 hours and on bad nutrition. I knew he would be struggling to the finish too. We grabbed him while he was taking bagel selfies and kept on keeping on.
  Soon, Josh and I realized we needed to cut our losses and let Shelley run on while we spent time walking and light jogging (with a soft "j", pronounced yogging). Josh and I talked about his race thus far, Comic Con, and trying to just chase my previous PR at 2:57. But really, we just enjoyed each other's misery.
  And the race soon became less about beating my last race time and became more about just enjoying the run. Something, I might add, that gets lost during race running all too often. Most of the time, racing is about PR's or bust. But on this tough course, Josh and I made this race about just enjoying the journey. And guess what happened? We turned what could have been a bad race into the most fun race we have ever ran. I think there is a life lesson there.
  The last five miles with Josh soon turned into a game of "Best Race Photos EVER!" Josh and I went from race photographer to race photographer posing in a new and wonderful way. Once, it was a centerfold shot. The next, wheelbarrowing time. Another one we did the necessary race jump. And another we acted like we were dying. We soon started talking about all the cool race photos we have seen and I told him about a guy I had somehow found that ended all his marathons with an epic food shot. Josh, always being game for an adventure, shared with me he had always wanted to finish with a Slurpee. We even discussed how to do such a feat. Then fate stepped in.
Proof we hit up 7-Eleven.
  We realized, that if we speed up, we might be able beat my last PR at mile 12. So we limped jogged ran and really tried to get there, but we didn't have it in us. It was clear, but we were still trying. Then Josh realized we would have to run about 1/4 a mile in 3 minutes. We didn't have a sprint in us. But we did, however, have a 7-Eleven right at the turn for the finish line. It was totally fate pushing us into it. We had to do it. We jumped off the course and grabbed a big cold one. Totally worth the minutes added to our race time.
   The only time I regreted our decision is when I thought about what Mark would thing of our decision. Here he is, waiting much longer than either of us had hoped, only to see his wife, not taking the race "seriously" finishing with a Slurpee. I had no idea what he would think. But instead of thinking I wasn't being serious enough, he laughed, after the initial shock of seeing us with our jug of frozen drinks.
Nearing the finish, drinks in hand.
  And the drinks made us famous. Everyone, from the police, to race officials, the onlookers, and the race announcers were cheering and applauding our choice. It truly lived up to our dreams of an epic finish. Sure, it was a few minutes after 3 hours when we got in, but we were the racers no one forgot. And Addison was glad to see us and share my drink.
My running group. I love these guys!
   I have thought long and hard about this race during the weekend home in Idaho. I am mixed up about how to feel about it. The race kicked my can, running wise. In fact, it was a real disappointment. I wasn't as prepared as I could have been for all the hills, mentally. This was the toughest course this race has ran in a couple of years. I should have lisened to people in my running group who pointed that out and prepared better. That isn't the race's fault, that is mine. The race it's self was very organized and the crowd support was superb. But, as a runner, we are programmed to only love our great runs and not enjoy a journey that goes against our plans. However, I am really proud of this race. I could have kicked myself for not being the runner I wished I should have been, but I didn't. I am celebrating all the lessons I learned this run. I know there will be other races and other chances to PR, but I doubt I will have the fun and blessings I did in this race. And with that, I know I won on Saturday.
Remembering Isabel with my ducks and medal.

Celebrating with Addison.
That necessary Sears Taco Stand post-race meal. Mmmm!

Sharing my medals with Isabel.

Kisses for sister!

   To read Josh's take, click here.

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