Friday, June 10, 2016

Let's Hope 4th Time's a Charm!

This coming October, I will join thousands of fellow runners from all over the country and world to run the streets of Chi town.  This will be make marathon number 6 for me and my 4th attempt to qualify for Boston. 
When I started my journey almost 20 years ago, I never thought I would ever run a full marathon let alone qualify for the mecca of all marathons.  In fact, running did not come naturally to me and my early years were very difficult and inconsistent.  Eventually though, I became more committed to my training and set out to run my first full marathon in 2010.  The entire experience from the training to the race, completely changed my life.  It gave me so much courage and confidence to take on anything that may come my way.  When I crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in 4 hours and 45 minutes, I was on top of the world, beaming with pride!

I knew I would do another, and hoped to PR, but the thought of it being significantly faster, like a 4 hour marathon, seemed almost impossible.  And any attempt to do so would soon be put on hold since my husband and found out we would be having our first son just weeks after the race.  Then six months after his birth, we found out we were having our second son.  (That’s two kids in 14 months in case you’re wondering).

Needless to say, as a novice runner and new mom, distance running was put on hold for a few years.  So by the time I set out to run my second marathon over three years later, I felt like I was starting over!  I had no major goals for the Celebration Marathon in 2014 other than just to finish and hopefully a little faster than my first one.  I was in total shock when I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 7 minutes.  Three years and two kids later, I PR’ed my marathon by 35 whole minutes!  Despite my improvement, there was still no thought of ever achieving a Boston qualifying time.

Later that same year, I got the urge to run another marathon and came across one over near the coast.  I signed up and began training for the Space Coast Marathon.  About two-thirds through my training, I was finishing up a long run and noticed how much faster I had gotten since my previous races and training runs.  I came home and Googled what time/pace I would need for Boston and almost couldn’t believe my eyes when it seemed like I was on track to potentially qualify if I could keep it up.  At that point I set out a goal to make it happen and became so obsessed with qualifying for Boston.

Training continued go great for me, I got faster and felt stronger with each training run and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would qualify at this, my third marathon.  Race came and so did a stomach bug for my two young children, but I was fortunate not to get it too, or so I thought.  The day before the race, I was feeling pretty queasy but chalked it up to race day jitters and by that evening, I was actually feeling much better.  But the morning of the race, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Again, assuming it was just nerves, I lined up with my pace group and took off.  Within a few miles though, I realized it was NOT going to be a good day for me!  I tried to push through but it was brutal.  When I finally crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 53 minutes, I was devastated. 
Though I could not have done anything to prevent a stomach bug, I continued to beat myself up over my poor performance and took it all so hard.  I decided to focus all my efforts over the next year training for the same race and to qualify this time around.  It would be my redemption race. 
So I poured my heart and soul into training, reading everything I could get my hands on, locking down my nutrition and hammering down what I thought to be the perfect program.   Training started off great but about half way through, I was feeling both mentally and physically exhausted because of the unneeded pressure I was putting on myself.  Then, about two months before the race, one of my biggest fears came true, I got injured.  I hit the crap (pardon my French) out of my heel on our coffee table, which caused a massive bruise on my heel and foot.  My Achilles then became terribly tight but I continued to push myself through my training runs despite the tightness and pain.  Next thing I knew, I had developed Achilles Tendonitis as well as Plantar Fasciitis, on top of a deep calcaneal bone bruise.  6 weeks off from running in the middle of marathon training meant bye bye BQ and potentially even running the race at all.

I took the rest period as an opportunity to reflect on my attitude and training mistakes.  It also gave me the opportunity to spend some time in the pool reconnecting with my love for swimming.  I was fortunate enough to heal up nicely and returned to light running about a month before the race.  I hadn’t logged nowhere near enough training miles, I had lost a lot of my endurance and was just mentally not prepared to run a full marathon.  But I pretty am damn stubborn and still wanted to give it a shot.

I knew I wouldn’t BQ and I wasn’t even expecting a PR.  My goal was to run, walk or even crawl if need be across that finish line of my 5th marathon.  A small little part of me thought I could maybe just maybe pull of my BQ after all.  The race actually started off great.  I was feeling it for the first 10 miles and was even on target to reach a solid PR.  But my lack of training, the heat and of course my injury that was flaring up soon got to me and I found myself walking a good amount of the second half of the race.  I vowed before I even began running that day though, to accept whatever came my way.  To just be happy and proud to cross that finish line.  4 hours and 11 minutes I limped cross that finish line with my head held high, my arms thrown up in the air in victory and tears of both pain and pride streaming down my face.

It was NOT the race I had been preparing for almost an entire year of my life for.  It was not even the finish time I had hoped for after my injury.  But I couldn’t have been more proud of myself not just for pushing through and finishing the race, but for doing so with a positive attitude.

Now, when I had gotten hurt a few months before, I had immediately hopped on the computer to find my next race that I would without a doubt accomplish my goal at.  While laid up on the couch, icing my leg and sulking over my injury, I pulled out my credit card and signed up for the Run with Donna Marathon just a few months away.  So after the Space Coast Marathon, I had to jump right back into to training for my next marathon.  I know now that probably wasn’t the best idea but I just couldn’t let go of a 2017 BQ.

Training for Donna was hit or miss.  On a positive note, my injuries seemed to have healed, but thanks to the time off because of them, I wasn't in any conditioning to be training for back to back marathons.  I did have a couple of great long runs where I felt confident I could go out and BQ, then I would have one that left me questioning distance running all together.  

Having no clue what to expect race day, this was the first time (and certainly not the last) I set 3 separate goals for myself.  A. BQ with my original goal time of sub 3:30, B. Sub 3:45, or C. Just finish.  Yes, quite a spread for goals, but I knew I had to be realistic out there deal with whatever came my way.  Because of my BQ or bust attitude for my last two races, I had not had a great marathon experience in years.  So I vowed for my 5th marathon to just do the best I can but most importantly have fun, soak it all in and enjoy the experience.

That's exactly what I did and I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 38 minutes, missing my BQ by 3 minutes.  Yes, a small part of me was disappointed, but an even bigger part of me was ecstatic for coming back strong after my injury and getting a huge PR!  It showed me what I am capable.  After two devastating marathons in a little over a year, I needed this race to show me that I can and eventually will make my BQ dreams happen.

I have learned so much about running, myself and life during my three attempts to BQ over the last two years.  I have been humbled, motivated, encouraged and inspired.  I have learned that nothing is ever given, everything is earned through hard work, determination and self belief.  I now know what I am capable, but I also realize it won't come easy and unfortunately, despite all my efforts, sometimes things just won't go my way.  I have to accept the things that I cannot control and push through physically AND mentally the things that I can to achieve my goals.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous to embark on this journey and make yet another attempt to BQ.  The thought of coming up short yet again terrifies me.  But it also fuels the fire I need to push myself each and every training run and of course on race day.  I am confident that I have it in me, I believe that now more than I ever have.  Now I am ready and willing to give it my all and finally turn that dream into a reality this October!

Fingers crossed...4th Time Is a Charm!!!

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