Maybe you saw this already?
I’m still kind of weird about it. I just don’t really know how to process what happened. My race, my friends’ races, the magic of Tracktown and the all-around incredible weekend filled by all of the awesomeness.
But, well, it’s complicated I guess. Let me try to explain.
(This is going to take a while. Please get comfortable or come back later.)
Six months ago I was clawing my way through #Sub4orDie. I was an average runner on the cusp of major burnout, without a plan or a passion for the sport.
I finally got my 3:57.34 at Santa Barbara on Nov 10th, a race I was really proud of and happy with.
After reaching my goal I took some time away from distance running. It was refreshing to not be tied to a plan and to have my weekends/life back.
And then in January, kind of accidentally, I fell absurdly head-over-heels in love with running.
With Sweaty in Houston for the Marathon Olympic Trials
On the plane home from the trials, I decided I was done being “average”. With the help of a few inspirational friends I developed a plan and deemed 2012 the year I’d run fast.
I committed to a 10-week plan and tackled each workout with energy and excitement. I hit weekly track workouts with Coach FasterBunny. I ran short distance races I’d shied from in the past. I reported to runfriends to keep myself accountable.
And I gained a shit-ton of confidence as I watched my progress. We were finally going to see what I’m made of.
After green-lighting myself post-Ragnar, I looked back on my long run paces (all around 8:45, with a 22 miler at 8:30) and tried to formulate a plan. Eventually I decided to just go out gutsy and give myself a chance to do something awesome.
On Sunday morning, standing in the corral outside of Hayward Field in Tracktown, USA, I was finally hit with a tiny moment of self-doubt.
“Look at all these people. They look so fast. You don’t belong up here – why don’t you move back towards the 4 hour group. Who are you trying to kid?”
I looked further up at my friends – Margot (so easy to spot with her bunny ears) who ran the hardest legs at Ragnar last weekend, ready to rock with SR as her pacer. Emily up even further, a picture of confidence and strength, ready to tackle a goal that has eluded her for the last year. I thought about how instrumental they’ve all been in me “finding myself” as a runner.
(They probably don’t realize this and are probably wondering what gross sap hacked OUaL and is writing this.)
And I thought about all of the other people – maybe some of you – who have given me the support and courage to go after something I never thought I was capable of. And I told myself I belonged right where I was.
And then the gun went off.
I told myself that I’d do my best to run on feel. I wouldn’t freak if I saw splits over or under my 8:12 goal pace, I’d use the downhills, tackle the inclines smartly, and feed off the course.
from eugenemarathon.com, the scale is super deceptive
Miles 1-4 were spent fighting the urge to get sucked in the current of the pack. I focused on each step and just tried to zone in.
(8:05, 7:59, 8:09, 8:10)
By mile 5 I settled into a pace that felt good and tried not to talk myself out of it.
“Why do you think it’s too fast? You’re capable. You can hold this. And if not, at least you’ll have time in the bank. Just keep going.”
(8:02, 8:03, 8:03, 8:04)
At 8.5 we approached the one “tough” hill. I put my head down, ready to tackle it, and heard Kim from Nuun yell out my name. I looked up to wave, and suddenly Mason was running next to me. It was a great boost, and hearing his updates on my friends’ progress got me up the hill and through a few miles before he left to run with Em again.
(7:58, 8:04, 8:02)
We split from the half and made our way along the Willamette River trail. I turned on my music but was too caught up in the moment – the trail, the people, how I felt – to tell you what songs were playing.
(I know, I know, treading lightly into “zen runner” territory – should I drop a few f-bombs here to pull some balance back to OUaL?)
We popped out into a residential area and hit the Half timing mat. This was a BIG moment for me, kind of my “aha!” realization of how far I’d really come.
That’s almost a minute faster than my current Half PR (from a downhill course).
Mason found me again somewhere around here, and his response to my 13.1 mid-mary record breaking was the perfect confidence boost to keep me from fearing inevitable positive split burnout :
“Of course you did.”
I listened as he told me more about everyone’s progress. Emily killing it way ahead of schedule, Margot & SR running steady and strong, Oiselle Mac (an HTC teammate & Houston trials cohort) crushing a 1:19 half and placing 3rd woman overall.
I let the news and excitement for my friends sink in, but quickly got back to my own race.
I KNOW GREY WAS NOT A GOOD COLOR CHOICE. (thank you for the photo, Meghan!)
(8:07, 8:06, 8:05)
When Mason left again around 18 I was still holding pace but could feel the fatigue & pain creeping in. My head was getting fuzzy and I was having problems keeping my thoughts channeled in a positive direction.
I kept hydrating (thanks to my Nuun Sherpa), took a gel, and tried to psych myself up for the final 10K.
“It’s supposed to be hard! This is what you’ve been working the last 10+ weeks for! Think about all the track workouts. The early mornings. That tempo you were so sure you were going to puke during. Don’t let it all be for nothing. That was all for THIS. Do it now.”
(8:09, 8:08, 8:12)
I hit the mile 20 mat, looked down at my watch, and was greeted with the time. Not race time, or pace time, but actual plain old time-time.
“I DON’T GIVE A SHIT THAT IT’S 9:43 AM! WHAT THE F IS MY PACE?!”
(Told you Zen Runner Sarah wouldn’t be around long.)
The combo of sweaty fingers and the abused/tempermental bezel screen wouldn’t let me switch displays. It still beeped and showed mile splits so it wasn’t REALLY the end of the world I pretended it was, but that was the one thing it took to tip my already precarious mental state to the dark side.
I ripped it off my wrist and had myself a nice little mini-meltdown.
(8:11, 8:22, 8:29)
My legs were heavy and my hip flexors were seizing. My right foot was hurting so badly (new pain) and I let myself believe it was a life-ruining overuse injury and that I was SO DUMB for running so soon after Ragnar.
Fear the Angry OUaL but please note that is in fact a midfoot strike
I hit 5K to go and was overwhelmed with disappointment. This was where I was supposed to make my move. Drop pace and surge in for a strong finish and a nice surprise BQ (Boston Qualify).
Instead, I stopped to walk.
I tried to tell myself to suck it up for “just 25 more minutes,” but that was the opposite of comforting. It was an absolute eternity.
And then the 3:35 pace group (BQ) passed me.
What should have fueled the fighter inside of me just broke me down more. I was hit with a (unfortunately familiar) sense of dread and defeat, and just wanted to be done.
Mason found me moments later, and tried to talk me into chasing them.
I threw my watch at him, told him to “fucking fix it”, and took another walk break instead.
I explained how bad my foot was. That I’d been greedy and stupid – in both my race scheduling and my pacing early on. That I’m not the Superman my oversized ego thought I was. That I was disappointed in my lack of mental toughness and knowledge of myself as a runner.
Ok, I didn’t ACTUALLY say any of that, since I don’t talk when I run and I DEFINITELY don’t talk during meltdowns at mile 24. But I THOUGHT all those things. Did my telepathy work, Mason?
He reminded me that I was still going to massively PR, but I couldn’t let myself take comfort in that. Not after fully committing to sub 3:35 all morning/weekend.
I blamed my fast start, I blamed Ragnar, and worried I’d never have a stars-aligned-perfectly opportunity like I had that morning. I wondered if Em would let me borrow her boot for my broken foot.
I tried to tell myself that Boston is lame and I hate the Red Sox, and that I shouldn’t care about that stupid race anyway.
Eventually we came out of the park and Hayward was in sight. I didn’t kick. I CRUISED in at my very Prefontaine’ish 9+ minute pace, and tried to look less-than-deathly for the finish photo…
Eugene Marathon, 4.29.12 - 3:37.05 (*New PR)
It’s hard to say what the real issue is here – missing a BQ by 2 minutes or my delusional “disappointment” with a 20+minute PR?
I’m such a brat.
Could I have run a smarter race? Obviously yes. Trained better? Probably. Are there things that I still need to figure out? Most def.
(Like not running 34 miles the weekend before…??)
Of course I’m THRILLED with my time and how far I’ve come. I ran a gutsy race and gave it what I had, and I’m proud of that.
And, despite the “disappointments”, this is still WAY more than I was expecting 10 weeks ago.
So instead of feeling bad about a missed “reach goal”, I’m getting excited for the future. With my rookie season of REAL training under my belt, it’s only going to get better (& faster) from here.
Plus, with fast friends like these, it’s impossible not to.
(YES that says 3:08. And her recap is almost as incredible as her time. Go read it.)
To everyone out on the course (cheering or racing), all of you commenters, Twitterers, emailers – thank you a hundred billion for being so awesome. Especially if “being so awesome” means wearing a banana suit. I drank an extra (ten) post-race beverages for you.