As you all know from my previous posts, yesterday was marathon day - Marathon #4, to be exact.
I went in with a 4:30 time goal and was actually planning to stick with the 4:15 pace group for as long as possible. I had trained through a long, hot and humid summer, and thought I could do it in the cooler fall race day temps.
Fall didn't happen, though. It was an unseasonably warm day - one that reached 90 degrees - and I found myself facing a different game plan half-way through the race.
But let's start at the beginning.....
It was a beautiful morning - not the crisp fall mornings, by any means, but definitely comfortable with 60 degrees at the start line.
The best part of choosing the Prairie Fire Marathon were all of the family and friends - it was one big runner family hug with all of my fellow running friends I have the pleasure of racing with throughout the year.
As planned, I started out with the 4:15 pace group and was feeling pretty good - and then Mile 5 came along. I had to pee, so a quick trip to the port-a-potty caused me to sprint back up to meet the group. I probably shouldn't have exerted that energy so early in the race.
Around Mile 6-7, I started to slow the pace down and take more walk breaks. Despite the easy-going start and feeling good, I quickly started to not feel so good. My legs were already feeling heavy and I felt queasy at each fuel station.
This continued until the half-marathon point, when I saw Jack near tears and told him I couldn't do it. He gave me more fuel, some words of wisdom, and sent me on my way as I begged for him and the kids to see me at Mile 16 (now that I was on my own and in between the 4:15 and 4:30 pace groups). At this point I was taking way too many walk breaks for my liking and the sun was really starting to shine, thus increasing the temps.
As promised, Jack and the kids were at Mile 16, to which I told him I wanted to quit. I was done. Frustrated with my body. Frustrated with my mind. Frustrated with myself in general. I had no desire to continue (at that point in time). My dear sweet hubs, God love him, went Coach Conkling on me and told me to such it up, butter cup (in so many words or less). He told me he'd meet me at Mile 20 and to press on until then.
Somewhere in between Miles 18-19, when the 4:30 pace group came up on me and passed me, I threw away my time goal and decided to enjoy the rest of the race as best as possible. At that point, the sun was beating down and temps were in the mid 70s with feel-like temps in the 80s.
Jack joined me just after Mile 20 and pushed me through - patiently letting me walk and run when I wanted and working through the myriad of emotions that spun throughout my mind that last (and long!) 10K of the race.
There were times of doubt. Times of frustration. Times of anger. Times of excitement. Times of fun - like taking a fun pic of the water station crew at Mile 24 - something I've never done before during a marathon race before.
And then there was those times of joy and giddiness as I approached Mile 26 - when pace and emotions from the last 26 miles didn't matter anymore because I had just endured another marathon and was about to cross the finish line. My left calf muscle was cramping and felt like a tight knot, my groin muscles quivering, but I powered through across that bridge those last .2 miles with a huge smile on my face and my kidlets gleefully running up to me as soon as I crossed the finish line and timing pad.
My parents and my brother and his girlfriend, along with my own Conkling crew, were all there to relish my marathon finish with me. I saw lots of fellow running friends at the finish, too. I loved, loved, loved having them all there - again, something that wouldn't have happened had we not been at a local race.
I didn't make my 4:30 time goal. I was actually a minute faster than my slowest marathon time from 8 years ago, when I finished my first marathon. But I'm breaking up with the marathon and the relationship I've had with it for the last 8 years on a happy note.
It's time to get back to fewer miles, shorter races, and running for the sheer enjoyment of running. I'm even going to go watchless for an upcoming race and start keying in on how I feel rather than becoming a slave to a watch.
Because a race time doesn't define me.
I've been through a bunch of ups and downs running-wise this year. I started the year getting faster and stronger with each race, starting to place in age groups and continually running PRs. I had a fantastic winter training season for the spring marathon with the confidence of crushing the 4:30 time goal. And then, as I've written about over and over again, life happened during the taper time of that marathon.
It led me to dig deep, press on, and re-focus on how I defined myself as a runner. It's not easy - I continually fall trap to the sinful tendencies of my competitive nature and idolizing the sport and comparing myself to others - but it's a growing process.
I leave the marathon embracing it for 8 great years, 4 tough (and hot - yes all of them have been in the heat!) races, and the lessons of digging deep and pressing on that I can take with me in all facets of life.
Here's to happy (and fewer!) miles in the coming months as I heal from this race and get back out there for the sheer enjoyment of pounding the pavement. Happy running!