“To choose your method of suffering is a privilege.” — Lauren Fleshman
(Wipe that Smile off Your Face)
In many ways, and looking back over my relatively short running “career,” this marathon felt like the first one in which I was biomechanically sound (not perfect mind you, just not crazy bad). Meaning that I didn’t run looking collapsed and miserable.
Inside I certainly was miserable, but somehow I managed to stay relatively upright during the entirety of the race, and at least put a smile on my face at mile 17.
Which is more than I can say for past marathons.
And dude, I’m an old lady!
Still, it feels like I’m just beginning to figure it all out, both through study and practice.
Which is a good thing, because I think there is still significant room for improvement.
And that is why this won’t necessarily be a race report where I tell you how I went to the port-a-pottie before the race and then lined up and then the next thing I knew I was at mile 6 and I took a gel, etc.
In fact, I have spent the last three days turning my wheels, trying to figure out how I can do better next time, rather than reflecting on what I did properly. Call me crazy, but that is how my mind works.
My last marathon, Surf City 2015 felt blissful. I honestly had the race of my life that day, and I didn’t know it until Sunday, when I had the most miserable. (Or perhaps a close second to Long Beach.) I screwed up in a few ways Sunday, and my fitness and most likely my newly-sound(ish) running form helped me to avert a total crisis.
So many things went wrong. The night before the race, we couldn’t get a table at an Italian restaurant, so we ended up at a fish house where the only items on the menu that I could eat (vegetarian) were sweet potato fries and quinoa salad. Not exactly the ideal pre-race meal.
I brought along Clif Shot Bloks for nutrition, and realized a few miles in that I can’t chew at marathon pace. Oops. (I will talk about my nutrition in a future post, but this mistake was based on prior stomach trouble.)
I didn’t sleep a wink the night before.
I wore my oldest pair of New Balance Vazee Pace, the ones I demolished on trails before marathon training even started. I really felt that in my knees. (My newer pair are the same color. Just a stupid mistake on my part to grab the old ones.)
I went out WAY TOO FAST. I hit the halfway point in my half-marathon PR. Another oops.
The course change resulted in us running down some abandoned, two-lane highway, which was full of ruts and potholes. It was both lonely and very hard on the legs. God bless the few spectators who drove up there and stood on the side of the road. I honestly thought I might fall on my face more than once. Lifting one’s legs over potholes is pretty much impossible during a race that long.
But still. I am not complaining, as I ran faster than ever. And honestly, rare is the day that everything goes right. It’s how we adapt when things go wrong that matters.
Running Angry and Scared
I pulled inner strength from my friends who are suffering, not by choice. What a privilege it is to be able to choose to suffer. And I wasn’t about to waste my suffering on a so-so marathon.
The first six miles I ran beside Katie, my training partner. Her PR is 3:09, but she hasn’t run faster since 2002. Today was going to be her day; I coached her this cycle, writing her workouts and kicking her butt on the days that she needed it (ha). I stayed beside her, just as we do during our Sunday long runs and tried to stay relaxed.
The 3:03 pace group was ahead of us, just in sight, and the 3:13 group was right behind us and gaining. I tried to stay calm, but I was worried that the 3:13 group would pass her and that her PR would be out of reach. And that’s about the time that they passed us.
“You need to get ahead of them,” I said, trying to stay calm.
Together we picked up the pace slightly and eased past them.
We ran together until around mile 6, when I lost her at a water station. And honestly I was happy to see her go, as I was terrified of hitting the wall as a result of redlining it too early in the race.
Alone, I tried to fall in with another group, but here is the first thought that I had:
“Oh crap I’m ahead of the 3:13 group. Now I’m going to have to stay here!”
And essentially that’s what I did. I ran scared from them, never relaxing for a second. I didn’t look back, and when people started to pass me, I tried to focus on picking up the pace. And it was just terrible.
I had to take every single mental tool in my toolbox out and use it up. I thought of how angry I was at the road for being terrible to run on, I thought about my hatred of cancer, and I thought about all those long runs and long tempo runs and crazy speed sessions… and this is what I thought:
I refuse to waste all of that training and time away from my family just to have a mediocre day. Eff that!
After mile 20, my anger settled down a bit, because all of those long runs that we did, were about to pay off. I still felt miserable, but I was holding my pace, just as most of the runners around me began to slow down.
This is when higher mileage pays off in dividends.
I began to reel in the only girl that I could see (girl being relative as she was 42!). And in true Rebecca fashion, I sprinted past her in the final 60 meters.
Which is why my “best” pace appears to be 4:52. (This makes me laugh.)
After I crossed the finish line, I saw Katie standing and talking with some friends. She ran 3:08, her best marathon to date, besting her pre-kids race by a full minute. We did the hobble down to the gear check, still not aware of my time.
Finally, after I got my phone, my mom sent me my runner tracking alerts, so I saw my finishing time: 3:12.06. A 5 minute PR. (I started my Garmin a bit late so I didn’t have the exact time.)
We definitely took a chance this marathon cycle, and tried something new, though as usual, hard work was the name of the game.
I’m not sure that I will sign up for another marathon anytime soon, as this one really wore me out. But on the other hand, I also feel like I would be foolish not to give it another shot.
For now I am looking forward to many shorter races, long trail runs and more strength work.