Thursday, November 3, 2016

Space Coast Marathon, I'm Coming For You (Sort of)

I'm not a very superstitious person.  I don't put much stock into good luck or bad fortune.  Of course I, like most runners, have my little rituals I like to do before a race, but I honestly do not feel as if they have much if any bearing on my performance.  So for the most part, I feel as if I control my own destiny.

With that being said, looking back at my experience with the Space Coast Marathon over the past several years, I may just be convinced this race is cursed.  Well for me at least. It seems like despite my best efforts, it just hasn't worked out for me each and every year I attempt this race.

And every year I swear I will NOT do this race again, yet here I am, 23 day until blast off (they like to play on to the whole space theme so I figured I'd roll with it).  So why am I running this "cursed" race again this year?  Well I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.  That and I get an extra medal for doing it three years in a row.  Bust most importantly, I am bound and determined to break this alleged curse and finally have a good Space Coast experience!

Before I get into how I plan to do that for this year's race, let me reflect on the last almost 4 years and why I have (somewhat) jokingly dubbed this race cursed...

My youngest son was about 9 months old and my oldest was about to turn 2.  I had two kids in 14 months and had taken a little break from distance running during that time.  Though I was a new mom, had yet to lose all the baby weight and hadn't had a full night's sleep in close to two years, I was eager to get back into the marathon game.  I had done a few half marathons but nothing is quite like the full distance.

I came across this local race in August and thought it would be a good one for my first race back.  I drug my feet on signing up for it for a few reasons (a. money was tight with me out of work and b. I was procrastinating because I was nervous to run another full).  But I began my training any way, figuring I could sign up when I was confident I could do it.

I got pretty deep into my training with several double digit runs under my belt and was starting to get really excited for the race.  When I finally decided to go ahead and sign up.  I had my credit card out, the website opened up and I was about to register when I realized one major problem.  The race had sold out!  I was pretty bummed and angry at myself for not signing up sooner (lesson learned).  Luckily I found a race about two months later (The Celebration Marathon) that I was able to continue training for.

The Celebration Marathon earlier that year went really for me.  I had a 35 minute PR and it propelled me into a running season of PR after PR.  By the end of the summer, I had cut minutes, yes minutes, off my over all pace.  I couldn't believe it and decided I wanted to do another marathon before the end of the year.

Not waiting til the last minute this time, I signed up for Space Coast and looked down a solid training program.  With each passing week, I was feeling stronger and faster and before I knew it, I was on pace to potentially qualify for the marathon of all marathons!  I just couldn't believe it but now that was all I could think about it.

By the time race day rolled around, it was BQ or bust.  I was feeling good and confident I would make it happen out on that course, no questions asked. 

But mother nature had other plans for me...what I thought to be nerves turned out to be a stomach bug I got from one of my sons and made for a rough day with me coming up 18+ minutes short on my goal. Though there was nothing I could've done differently, I my spirit was broken and I beat myself up over it for weeks.

After such a rough experience the year before, I swore I would not run this race again.  But as the months went on and the disappointment wore off, I set my sights back on this race and decided to make it my redemption run.  It would be the only full marathon I would run that year and I would put all my time and energy into crushing this course and getting my BQ.

I studied all things distance running for months and hammered down what I thought to be a great program.  Things started off well and I was feeling myself getting faster and faster.  But with such a lofty goal in mind, I was pushing myself to the limits and not listening to my body.

About 6.5 weeks before the race, I suffered an injury to my heel bone that caused me to develop Achilles Tendonitis and Plantar Faciitis.  I had to take almost a whole month off of running and I was devastated!  I tried to keep up my fitness with swimming, biking when it wasn't painful, upper body lifting and yoga, but nothing could fully supplement distance running and I was pretty out of shape by the time I was cleared to run.

With just a few weeks til race day, I tried getting my mileage back up, but it was pretty humbling.  Though I was no longer in much pain, I had become so deconditioned I just couldn't handle the distance and pace I was working for.  I knew I would eventually build back up, but not in time for race day.  So I had to let go of any goal I had and just hope to finish that day.

Having no where enough training miles to run a full marathon, I gave it my best effort that day.  I actually started out pretty well but by the half way mark, I just knew it wasn't happening.  I took several walk breaks and eventually limped through to the finish line with my worst marathon time in years.  Though I was disappointed by the whole experience, I was certainly not defeated.  I had fought through adversity and finished and that was certainly something to be proud of.

2016 thus far
I had a kick ass Spring this year.  I had some great races, a PR in every distance I ran, and I even got to start pacing half marathons.  By the beginning of the summer, I was riding high and ready to tackle some big goals.

I was asked if I would be available to pace the 2016 Space Coast Marathon and though I was pretty much over this race, I jumped on the chance.  Around the same time, I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon, which I was hoping to BQ at.  I figured I would get my BQ in Chicago and then have a fun time helping fellow marathoners 7 weeks later at Space Coast.  Nothing to it, right!?!

Whelp, I missed my BQ by a few minutes up in Chicago and then learned I was put on the back up list of pacers for Space Coast (and they most likely will NOT need me).  I had pretty much planned my entire fall around running both of those races and had actually become pretty excited to go back to Space Coast.  So, I figured what the heck, I'll just go ahead and sign up for it and run it any way.  A bunch of my friends are going to be there and I get a special medal for running it three years in a row.  I'll just go have some fun with it, or will I?  Lest not forget the curse!

And my plans for 2016
Several people have asked me if I will try to BQ at Space Coast since I am not pacing it and I missed it in Chicago.  My simple answer, it's not my goal but it's worth a shot.  7 weeks between marathons is not enough time to recover from the first one and prepare for the next one.  Jumping right back into training is tough both physically and mentally.

The optimist in me wants to take all the pressure off and just have fun, with the rest of my training training and of course on race day.  But the competitor in me wants to keep pushing and fighting until I reach my ultimate goal.  I guess it's all about finding a good balance of hard work and dedication, but still listening to my body (so I don't get burnt out or worse, hurt) and knowing when to let go and have fun.  So with all that being said, here are my goals for Space Coast this year...
A. Swing for the fences.  If I happen to be feeling it that day, why not freaking go for it and make that BQ finally happen at the race that has defeated me so many times before!?!
B. Push a little and clock what has become a consistent marathon time for me in the low 3:40's.
C. Run with a friend (or a stranger for that matter) who is trying to break 4 hours.
D. Just finish that damn thing with my head held high and a smile on my face.  2 marathons in 2 months is certainly something to be proud of!
Regardless of what goal I accomplish that day, one thing is of the utmost importance...break the "Space Coast Curse."  Whether I BQ or walk half the race, I am NOT going to let Space Coast defeat me yet again.  It's all about attitude and I plan to keep mine positive from now until I cross the finish line, and beyond.

So yes, Space Coast, I AM coming for you!

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