I raced at the Presque Isle Half Marathon this past Sunday. I can honestly say that I did not focus on that particular race in training. It was just a race that I had signed up for to motivate myself to keep training throughout these hot summer months; something that I have honestly never done before. I have usually taken the summers off from training and just run whenever I felt like it. I have come to realize though that this has contributed to my lack of further progression in the past. I achieved a marathon pr by training all winter long for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Now it is time to build on that base and strive to achieve faster times in shorter distance races. That being said, I set my heart and mind on a half marathon pr for Presque Isle just a few short weeks before the race because, like it or not, I can’t help but be competitive with myself at an organized race. I enlisted the help of a friend, Lori, whom I had met back in February/March of this year at another local race, where she paced the 9:00/mi group through an 18 mile race. She is an inspiration to any who have the privilege of meeting her and running with her…not to mention she is a professional pacer and a SPOT ON one, I must add. She, in all her running craziness, had gone out and run a 50K Trail Race the day before, then got in her car and drove to Presque Isle at WTF o’Clock and met me to run/pace me at 6:45am Sunday morning. I am still in disbelief and awe…but eternally grateful because, without her, I would have burned myself up in the first half of the race and had nothing left in me for the end. We started out slow, as the crowd is always thick in the first few miles, but we hit our stride by mile 2 and settled in with easy conversation.
Over the next few miles, I matched her stride and she reigned me in multiple times. This is what she does…and she’s good at it. I wanted to try to fuel at the 4.5-5mi mark but my stomach was a little queasy. She suggested I try again around 6mi. That wasn’t an option either. I was “ok”, but knew that if I took anything in it would most certainly come right back up. I had already resorted to just rinsing my mouth out at the water stations rather than actually drinking the water. At mile 7, I threw up in my mouth. Gross, I know. I wasn’t SICK. I wasn’t hurting. I was keeping pace, still running strong, and feeling good. We were still talking easily and then all of the sudden- PUKE! It is what it is though and my mind began to think back on Meb Keflezighi talking about the day he won the 2014 Boston Marathon. He had been running so far for so long on the very edge of his ability, giving that race everything he had, and trying to extend the gap between him and the athlete in second position, that at Mile 24 he was about to throw up. He said: “…so what you gotta do is: DEAL WITH IT! You’ve just got to hold it in. I know it’s disgusting but it won me the Boston Marathon.”
**Watch the full inspirational video recounting his experience firsthand here:
So we continued on and only slowed a few seconds throughout the next few miles as I came to terms with it and repeatedly found a way to “DEAL WITH IT”. My true struggle began at 10.60 miles…right about the time when I had hoped and planned to pick up the pace. Lori could see that I needed to “stay” though and she placed herself directly in my path to keep me clinging to her and avoiding either extreme; going too fast or slowing down and falling off pace. I don’t remember much about miles 11 or 12, they are a blur of misery and heavy breathing to me as I struggled to stay in control of my rising heartrate and thirst for air, but when the orange cones came into sight as the final pathway to the finish line, Lori shouted over her shoulder that it was “time to dig deep and finish this!”. I heard a few spectators screaming “Go girl! Bring it home under two!”. I can not say this any clearer: Lori TOOK OFF! All I could think at this point was that I had not held on this long or suffered so much in the past few miles to lose this now. So I tucked in and “took flight”, telling myself “Don’t stop till you’re proud!”. It hurt like hell, but I caught up to her and brushed her elbow as we both crossed the line; she was one foot strike ahead of me…and THEN I puked! 😂 1:59:17 was my official finish time. (A half marathon PR by 38 seconds!) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In the days since, I have kept moving and have been performing some easy recovery runs, as well as, stretching, massage/chiropractic care, and Cryotherapy. I have been thinking about this race and being very realistic/honest with myself; I am not yet capable of a 4:00 Marathon. I did what I did on Sunday to break the 2:00 Half Marathon, but it took everything I had. I could not imagine that being the halfway point of my race…I was DONE. That being said, I am not saying that I can’t get there. I most certainly will. It’s just going to take me a little longer. I am coming to terms with the fact that, despite the races that I have run and the countless training runs I have performed, I am still quite inexperienced when it comes to that level of endurance running. I have to make peace with the distance before I can actually conquer it. So I am continuing with the Break 4:00 Marathon Plan but relaxing more when Shep steps in and modifies my workouts based on my performances and presentation. For instance, today we went out for my weekly track workout and instead of doing 9+miles of Yasso 800’s, we did 8x200m, 2x400m, and 1x200m with a significantly shorter warmup and cooldown run and he let me walk the recovery periods. It was 90 degrees, humid, and sunny. I wasn’t sore from the race anymore but my muscles felt stiff, my legs felt heavy, and I was experiencing a deep down level of fatigue that I have not known before. Something that he, in his 47+years of experience, was expecting and knew was bound to happen…but I was a little surprised. He explains the science behind the sport/progression of athletic fitness to me, and I listen, but don’t always understand. Piece by piece though, it all starts to make a little more sense to me over time and, as we continue this journey together, I believe that one day all the pieces will come together and I will begin to fully understand the bigger picture. Until then, I listen to those who know and I take this one day at a time, one run at a time.
My goal for the full marathon in Erie (September) is not centered around an actual, specific time goal. (Aside from simply a marathon PR, of course.😂) I am focusing more on the distance itself and planning to run a race that I can be proud of. Maybe not a FAST race, per se, but a CONSISTENT race, a STRONG race, a race where I can look back and say that there was not one single moment/mile/point in the course that broke me down. I want to make peace with the distance and not fear the marathon. Once I do this, I can then start down the path of making my inner/mental strength and my outer/physical strength collide and bridge the gap towards a faster future marathon time…one that will, eventually, earn me the title: “Boston Qualified”. This is my journey. I will get there when I am ready.