The final race! 117 seconds

I am not sure where to start in describing my final race on this journey of trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. I believed so deeply that it would happen that I am in a bit of shell shock that I didn’t qualify and this part of the journey is over. A new dream is already hatched for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. My fastest marathon was in June 2:47:57 so in the end 117 seconds separated me from qualifying for the Olympic Trials ( less time than it will take you to read my blog today).

I flew home late Monday night and it was so strange to see my motivational phrases all over the house, posters Katherine made me, stacks of mental training and running books, bottles of vitamins/supplements/oils that helped kick my cold and reduce inflammation, foam rollers, etc. Wow I was in deep and left nothing out in pursuit of this goal. I feel like I should be sad and crushed but can’t find these emotions I think it is because I did everything within my power to run a 2:45marathon. I am blessed to have the confidence to know I can run that fast. Can I run that fast on reduced training, a comprised body, injuries, and asthma problems? Not this time.

My Arizona kids had never seen the leaves change color. They were delighted to see these beautiful colors on the grounds of the state capitol building. They made piles and jumped in them.

Saturday morning Wendy Schulik filming my prerace interview ( I am wearing my “Grateful” shirt Susan Loken gave me before I left for the trip. I will post any videos in the future.

The night before the race I tossed and turned in the hotel room barely sleeping a wink despite 2 alarms set. Thoughts of my  training kept creeping in my head, little voices saying “you hardly ran anything at race pace, you did not get enough long runs in, almost every track workout was on the Alter G, every long and fast run was very painful, how are you going to run faster, further and push through the pain tomorrow? For every negative thought I conjured up something positive: anything is possible, believe you can do it, think how awesome it will be running across that finish line, what an amazing year, take one mile at a time. Then I just started praying; Hail Marys and the rosary. Finally time to get up. Felt like I had about 1000 butterflies in my stomach. That always makes it easier to eat! Somehow the oatmeal, rice protein shake and banana went down well. A sports drink with Carbopro would be sipped up until about 30 minutes prerace. I have learned this year to eat about 600 calories prior to the race.

I headed down to the lobby to meet the bus. A girl spotted my yellow ribbon on my gear bag (indicated Elite status) and quickly started chatting me up. She was also trying to qualify today. Being my usual self I start encouraging her, giving her final tips, calming her nerves and keeping her motivated. A few miles into the bus ride I pulled out my rosary and started praying again. It was hard to block out the chatter of all the runners but I did my best to focus.

We arrived in Folsom and I headed to the elite tents with my new friend. It was in the low 30’s so we were thankful for the tents with heaters! I was really hoping the cold would not cause asthma problems, I have not run in this cold of weather and with just shorts, sleeveless top and arm warmers, Brrr. It was fun connecting with girls I had met in Duluth this summer. I wished everyone well. Standing in line for the porta potties I discussed the benefit of triple knotting your shoes. (Later at the finish a young woman who qualified would come thank me for the advice).

Several of us ran a bit of a warmup mile or so keeping our sweats on to ward off a chill. I ran into Wendy with her camera and she got a quick prerace interview. I told her I would rely on the strength of my father today since he is the one I get the running gene from. I teared up thinking of him and sad that he was not alive to share this with me.

Then it was time to peel off our sweats and line up at the start. It is kind of funny to think of all the lean barely any body fat girls huddling together to stay warm. The National Anthem and then we are off!

Starting around miles 5-6 I was trying to convince myself that the feeling in my quads was from the cold not fatigue. I keep telling myself stay focused, you don’t have to think about the whole race just run a 6:15 paced mile 1 at a time and before you know it you will be at the finish line.

I was looking forward to seeing the family around mile 6 or 7. I was still fighting the mental demon that was sinking in quickly telling me there is no way this is happening today. I ran by the kids gaining a mental boost! Now I just needed to hold it together despite not really being able to feel much of my quads anymore. I knew my friend pain would be finding me on the course at some point too.

I focused on getting to mile 10 by about 62:30. It helps to break down the race into smaller segments when I struggle. I don’t recall looking at my watch at mile 10 but knew the last couple mile splits were a bit off. I knew Jaymee was going to try and be there around mile 13 and was remembering her advice that I could negative split the course. This was really keeping me going. I passed Jaymee at some point and heard her encouraging words (really needed it at that point). My family surprised me by being around the half marathon mark too. I was trying not to cry because it was becoming painful and I was slowing a bit. It is sort of blur now but I know I was doing everything I could at this point, I needed to hold this pace and even pick it up a bit.

The next spot to see family was going to be 18.5 miles. I focused on just making it there on pace. Between 14-16 mile markers as pain in my hip was really firing I just could not hold the pace anymore and knew the dream was slipping away. This was a low point of the race. I considered dropping out when I saw my family next. The pain and fatigue were severe and I could get a ride with them.

Suddenly something clicked in my head, I am not a quitter I deserve to finish for myself, my family and all those that can’t run. I thought about the kids I coach for running program at school, how could I go home and tell them I did not finish. I decided to just finish even if I had to walk. The thought of walking 8 miles to the finish was very unappealing. I got a little boost and somehow ran mainly around a 7minute pace through til the finish.

The last few miles was definitely emotional and spiritual. I started encouraging all the other runners around me. I prayed that my lost dream would transfer to another girl up ahead on the course and allow her to qualify for the trials. I gained mental strength thinking of my friend Jared who is wheelchair bound. I tried to enjoy the run since I knew I would be taking time off and not running for a while. Here are my mile splits from my Garmin:

1-6:16 2-6:18 3-6:18 4-6:17 5-6:15 6-6:17 7-6:19 8-6:23 9-6:30 10-6:30 11-6:27 12-6:38 13-6:34 14-6:44 15-6:58 16-6:56 17-6:57 18-7:07 19-7:05 20-7:00 21-6:58 22-7:03 23-7:09 24-7:07 25-7:03 26-6:58

My official finish time was 2:56:29. If I put aside what I was trying to do and just looked at my training and the time I ran it feels nothing short of a miracle. I am not really sure how I ran those last 10 miles at that pace! There really was no motivation to run hard, push through the pain.  Once the dream of qualifying for the Olympic Trails slipped away the marathon just did not seem to matter anymore. I think that is the point the spiritual part of the race started.

I sprinted down the final straightway to the finish. I crossed the finish line smiling with my arms in the air for victory. I always thought I would cry at the finish either because I qualified or didn’t. I could not find  tears just pride in my journey of 2 1/2 years. Wendy was there with her camera and got a few words with me. I just wanted to find my family and celebrate. Kevin’s brothers family was there. My nephew Andrew was full of questions about the race and intrigued with my medal. Katherine was tearing up feeling my sadness for me. It was such a sweet moment with my family.

We got back to the hotel to pack up and I said it seemed so surreal that it was all over. Katherine says “Mom the journey is not over because you still have your dream” Well that finally brought on the tears.

 Post race celebration and enjoying a huge Mexican Feast. I was so hungry!

The next day we went to San Francisco and had a great time seeing the city. I am glad we had this trip planned. The kids had fun pulling mom up some of the big hills (my quads were not exactly working).

I plan to take some time off for my body to recover. I can’t wait to get back out there I know 2012 will be another exciting year of racing. In Jan 2011 I was full of excitement about my running dreams for the year. I did not reach the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials but gained more than I could have ever imagined.

I just bought my ticket to Houston. I have to go watch my friends race at the Olympic Trials and start my visualizing for 2016. I think it might be broadcast on NBC. Watch for Arianna Hillborn super fast girl from AZ and Susan Loken the masters legend.

Dream Big and go after your goals. It will not always be easy but I promise you will land on your feet and might surprise yourself along the way and it will definately be worth it.


It takes a village!

I am here in Sacramento less than 24 hours before the California International Marathon (CIM). I am at the hotel relaxing and doing final race preparations. It is a great time to reflect back on this year of running. I could not do any of this alone, it has taken a village to get me where I am today. Here are some of my key tribe members:

Family-my husband has been nothing but supportive both emotionally and financially to help me this year we have traveled  around the country chasing my dream. My kids have been encouraging and a source of inspiration. I want to make them proud and be a good role model for them. My mom has taken care of the kids many times to I could make it to some key workouts with training partners. My sister in-law Carren always with a perfectly times phone call to help me stay calm cool and collected.

Dr John Ball-he has spent a lot of time working with me this year and healing me. He has got me to more start lines than I thought possible. The last few months have been tough physically on my body. I would not have this chance without him! He sure can inflict the pain but it is extremely affective. My friend Jaymee Marty even wrote a song about him titled “Pain”.

Coach John-I started working with John Oct 2010 and came to him on Susan’s suggestion. I wonder if he thought I was crazy to go from a 3:11 to 2:25 marathoner in a little over a year. He has been incredible the last few months tweaking my schedule to overcome my injuries and keep me training at my best.

Training Partners-many people have trained with me this year but the 2 that have had the most impact are Flash and the Legend (Susan Loken). Flash has made me run so fast and hard I thought my legs were fly off! He has never let me accept anything than my best. Susan became named the legend at our house since she is a 3x Olympic Trials Qualifier and multiplex Master National Champion. I could write volumes on how she has helped me this year! We have run some long, hard, hot and difficult miles together. She is the most positive person I know! When I thought I would crumble after Austin Marathon she showed me how to refocus. She has taught me to take believe to another level. We have shared a rough few months of training and encouraging each other. I cant wait to be toes to the line with this awesome legend in Houston at the Olympic Trials!

Lauren Fleshman (seriously fast elite runner and Runner’s World cover girl last month plan on seeing her in London this summer)and Jaymee Marty (masters olympic trials qualifier)- These 2 runners came in town last week to get treated by Dr John Ball and where an awesome distraction for me. They spent one night playing guitar, singing and making up songs about marathons. I love the song about my year of PR’s and Whatcha gonna do on Sunday?? (get an OTQ). It was awesome to meet them and spend time getting to know each other.

There are many others too, Melissa Guthrie brining me some great essential oils for injuries and to kick the last-minute cold I got, Nicole at Spooner jumping in at the last-minute with some great support, all the kids in the running program I coach at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic School inspiring me. My iron sister Stacy Ahearn one tough chick. For those that can’t run and inspire me to run harder especially Jared Woods.

Yesterday Kevin drove me around the course so I could check everything out and make some notes. I am loving this course! Gently rolling hills not verymany turns. I warned the kids to not complain about being in the car for a long time since I would be running this distance tomorrow. We got to the finish area in the shadow of the state capitol building and I got out to walk around a bit. I was taking a moment to visualize myself crossing the finish line. I told Kevin I can see the clock and it says 2:45! He physically starts looking around for a clock and says what clock? I look down at my watch and you guessed it 2:45!! Good Omen. I quick took a picture with my cell phone.

I am prepared physically and mentally. I am looking forward to the physical and spiritual experience that will happen on the course tomorrow. I plan on praying the rosary on the bus ride to the start and doing some final visualization. There are many women from around the country sharing in the same goal tomorrow morning, probably close to 70. Hard to imagine us all packed together, I plan on watching where I run so as to not get tangled up!

Runner tracking is live at I am bib#54 race starts at 7am, CA time.

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