On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Target for some throwaway clothes.
Starting line temperatures were to be below freezing, I’ve never run a marathon in these kind of temps, hell, I hadn’t run a full marathon (minus the Ironman marathon) since 2011. With cheap sweats and snacks in hand, Chicken Face and I proceeded to do nothing but rest and eat for the rest of the day.
Thanks to our free hotel room near the start, I was able to wake up at a decent hour (5 a.m.), eat breakfast in our room, gear up and get comfy in my throwaway clothes. It wasn’t long before I was at the start, in line for the port-a-potty and I spotted my friend Antonia.
We huddled and discussed our clothing layering options. At that time, I second-guessed my tank top and shorts decision, but there was no turning back and put faith in the clothing advice Aron and Jen had given me. With the start approaching, I tossed my sweat pants but decided to keep the sweatshirt on, with all of its fuzz-ball, anti-wicking glory.
BANG! We were off.
I had Gu Chomps shoved in my bra and I was holding extra pack — I had learned my lesson about fueling and I did not want to run out. But there I was with a new situation: I was running with an abnormally big sweatshirt with tight cuffs, so I shoved my Gu Chomps up the sleeve and they found a snug little resting place. But in order for my Chomps to rest safely and comfortably, I had to pull down my sleeve over my watch – and so I did.
At that point, I just ran. I ran to what felt comfortable, to what felt fun, and to what felt a bit challenging, yet sustainable. Because my sweatshirt was covering my watch and holding my Chomps in place, I didn’t look at my time until each mile marker, when my watch would beep and tell me my splits. When I looked down and saw the faster than average splits, I told myself to calm down, don’t blow up too soon.
So the sleeve would go back down, cover up the watch, and I wouldn’t check again until the next mile marker. Mile after mile, my splits were faster than normal, yet consistent. I was feeling great…well, cold, but great, so I just kept running.
I told myself I would ditch the sweater after 2 miles, maybe 3 miles, maybe 4 miles… I didn’t end up getting rid of it until I made my first bathroom stop at mile 8. It was those first eight miles of not looking at my watch and instead running by feel that set my pace, perspective and confidence for the rest of the race. No pace mind games, just running at my capability level, at a pace I enjoyed. People tell you this all the time, but you never really get it until you try it. And in my case, I unexpectedly discovered it thanks to an $8 throwaway sweatshirt.
At this point in the game I was already surprised by my own performance, but was cautious not to let it get to my head as these paces were fast for me, I knew I needed to sustain, and my gut wasn’t feeling too well.
I turned the corner at mile 10 and saw all of my friends jumping and cheering like crazy. What I didn’t know was that they had made a sign for me and to see all of them cheering their hearts out almost made me cry on the course… this is no exaggeration. A big thank you to Alyssa, Cate, Mike, Will, Aron and Jojo for being out there on a frigid day – you gave me something to look forward to and I will forever be grateful. Chicken Face couldn’t make it out to be on the course as he was finishing a final, which is why I’m even more thankful for this bunch!
CIM markets itself as a “net downhill” course, but if you look at the map, you only lose ~300 ft. of elevation, and instead, it’s 26.2 miles of constant rollers. Thus, the middle miles were just a constant chug. I had my music on and I just made my way through the miles, counting down one at a time, hoping to not hit a wall.
Along the way I made two more bathroom stops (for a total of three – ugh) and my gut was turning over. Not much you can really do except put one foot in front of the other. I saw friends again and saw a blog friend I wasn’t expecting to see when I randomly heard someone shout my name. Hi, Tim!
The course itself is 95% through suburbia with not too much to look at. But the sun had finally broken out during the middle miles and the clouds were enough scenery to provide something beautiful to look at. As you can see, I wasn’t doing much other than running, listening, and stopping at the bathroom.
By the time mile 20 came around, there was a sign that said, “You’re at mile 20. Never trust a fart.” I appreciated that so much more than the multiple “That’s what she said…” signs that were everywhere. Mile 20 also had these banners up that looked like brick walls and at that point, I thought, “Oh my God. I haven’t hit the wall yet.” There was minimal watch obsessing and I only focused on the lap splits and then how much time I lost at each bathroom break. Overall, probably a minute and a half to two minutes total.
As I was weaving through some trees, I saw a petite girl in neon up ahead. I knew exactly who it was: my friend Jess. She looked like she was having a bit of trouble so I had to hustle to catch up to her where she told me she was having a bad cramp. I then looked at her and said, “Jess. Come on. Let’s do this together.”
We didn’t say much of anything to each other for the rest of the race, but instead, it was a silent agreement between two friends and runners that we were in this together, until the end, and that we were going to absolutely finish this.
Whenever she would pick up the pace, I’d try hard to push my pace to catch up with her, and the same applied to her when I found some spare juice in my legs. Together, we were pushing each other through those last miles in a way that helped catapult us both to unexpected and overwhelmingly happy finishes.
We reached the final 1.2 miles and I said, “Look, there’s Jojo and Aron ahead.” Just the energy booster that we needed; our leg turnover rate increase. As we approached the last .2 miles I muttered, “Let’s do this…” and we shifted gears into overdrive.
We finished, together, in 3:12:57.
106th female / 37 out of 391 in my AG / 7:22 avg. pace
I couldn’t have done it without Jess and I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to cross the line together.
Celebrations quickly ensued, but I had to get home stat to address a work emergency. Yet the entire ride home, I couldn’t believe what had happened.
A while ago I proclaimed my A+ goal to be a 3:15. I then struggled through injury and training to find my mojo again and was going to be happy with anything that broke my old PR of 3:31 (from Boston 2011). To think that I not only broke my old PR, but went beyond my A+ goal is unlike anything I could have dreamed of. While there are many people to thank, I learned an important lesson thanks to a throwaway sweatshirt.
Get out of my head, off of my watch and find my happy running place.
When you do, amazing things can happen.
Now to remember that for next time…