Since my first road marathon in 2013 I have been haunted by that 3:03 I ran at the Manchester Marathon. I knew I wasn’t trained for the marathon and my goal was 3:30. I was thrilled to exceed my goal but…..3 minutes shy of breaking 3 hours! I thought I wouldn’t care but I did, so once I was able to get myself healthy again with the help of my physical therapists Mel and Jan, my massage therapist Jessica and my chiropractor Dr Middleton I told my coach I signed up for the Cape Cod Marathon because I thought it was flat. I later found out it had some hills but I expected them to feel flat as a pancake. I told close friends and didn’t make a big fuss over it because I wanted to quietly try to break 3 hours. It was nothing more than a bucket list item that I wanted to check off.
Of course I didn’t listen to my coach. I signed up for a 50 miler about 6 weeks out which meant I would have to recover for 2 weeks and that left me with only 2-3 weeks of marathon training. I also couldn’t resist hitting the trails with friends because it was so much more inviting than pounding the pavement alone. I even did a Killkenny ridge traverse with Ryan, Adam, Cooper and Jack puppy where Jack puppy finished his NH 48 and celebrated with some Bologna! I figured my weekly track workout would be enough to get me to my goal and ran dirt roads in place of paved roads. The trails from our house are quite rugged but I train based on effort so I just assumed it wouldn’t really matter what kind of surface I ran on.
I also took some time to continue painting rooms in the house and we had someone refinish the floor so working on the house made getting in the miles a bit tougher too!
I also started riding mountain bikes with my friend Kristin which has been a very nice change and a weekly escape from always running! I also run with my friend Elizabeth after work which is always fun (except when I tripped on and landed in a dead carcass on a night run-that’s right, I fell into a dead carcass and got blood and guts on me) and when my friend Abbey can join me on the track I would try to keep up with her while she completely kicks my ass during the speed sessions! I usually run with Ryan a few days a week and Jack puppy joins on almost every trail run!
I honestly could not wait for my marathon so that I could get back into the mountains. It killed me to look out our window every morning and see the mountain and not be running up it! I had turned down fun mountain runs with friends to go run solo on the road and do speed workouts as well as work on my nutritional strategy. As the race got closer I became more nervous!
We had not seen the girls in a long time and missed them terribly. Finally their mom let us see them and because it happened to be the weekend of my race we were thrilled to bring them with us! They have never seen a road running race and we thought it would be nice for them to see people doing amazing things! On the way to the race Hannah told us how she was telling her friends that her dad and step mom were strong. Her friend said that she believed her dad was strong but didn’t believe that a mom could be strong. I knew at that moment I was going to be strong for my girls and I told them they would see some very strong women at the race. They asked me if I was going to win and I told them I was not going there to win and probably would not win but I wanted to run in under 3 hours. They had no idea what running in under three hours meant, and they don’t need to at their young ages. Ryan and I try to teach the girls to focus on having fun and enjoying the journey instead of being competitive. They are way too young to be taking competition to the next level and instead should just be doing things for fun.
We got my BIB number and went to the Cape Wind Resort which ended up being awful. They put two cots in the room with springs poking through and promised cookware in the kitchenette and there was none so we had to buy pots and pans. We were on a budget which is why we got a room with a kitchen! I was quite nervous about the race and tried to doze off but the person in the room next to us woke up every 3 hours to smoke and hack their brains out. Jack puppy barked when he heard them outside and the smoke smelled so bad coming in the room so we had to close the window, but they were so noisy all night. I got up exhausted and frustrated but at that point all I could do was move on with the day.
We got to the race start and ran into Karen and Dima and wished each other luck! I gave hugs and kisses to Ryan, the girls and Jack puppy and stood at the starting line, up front shaking like a leaf. Eric looked over at me and we wished each other luck. Then after the national anthem the cannon went off and we were flying…way too fast! We were somewhere around 6:20 pace and I slowed up around mile 3. I tried to run off effort and was pleasantly surprised with how good I felt ticking off 6:30-6:44 pace. I questioned my ability to maintain it but I could talk, laugh and smile so I went with it! Honestly the flats felt great and my body was being nice to me!
I could see the lead woman and she was cookin! A guy Andrew ran with me for a while and talked to me about the course and taught me a few things about the marathon as he had several under his belt. I would choke on the water at the water stops but tried to keep running. I was thrilled to see 1:28 at the half mark which was exactly where I wanted to be. Around mile 14 the hills started and my pace began to slow on the climbs. I tried to make up time on the descents and then it happened, my quads started to kill! I had to slow up on the descents so I tried to rev my cadence and effort on the hills but I struggled to hover around 7 minute pace. I had a moment of negativity where I questioned stopping and thought how ridiculous it was to be worrying about seconds! In a trail race I can completely blow it and make up time but on the road it’s so consistent that missing pace by a second or two can completely rip that goal away from you.
I caught up with the first woman around mile 15 and we chatted a bunch as I kept asking the group I was with if we were on sub 3 pace. They assured me we were in a great spot. The woman also had said she ran a 50k the week before which absolutely blew my mind! I wanted the girls to meet her after the race because I wanted them to see how strong she was to run two long and hard races within a week! I got choked up and thought of the girls and how I wanted to be strong for them and show them that their friends were wrong.
I don’t know what happened but around mile 19 I became a different runner. I was in so much pain yet still held onto a respectable pace. The flatter miles in the 6:40’s, the hilly ones in the low 7’s and then there were the two windy miles where I ticked off a 7:28 and 7:38. When I saw those two miles I was crushed. I tried to do the math and realized sub 3 was about to become impossible. I started to feel my body want to shut down and saw three flashes of white stripes in my vision and wondered if I were having a stroke. The last time I experienced something like this was at Cranmore when I collapsed at the finish. I was going to finish in 3 hours or push myself to collapsing, there were no other options. I didn’t care that I was in the lead because that is not why I was there.
The pace bike was with me and I don’t have much memory after mile 23 but at some point I do remember telling him I wanted to cut my legs off. I turned the very last corner and saw the clock at 2:59 and ran as hard as I could, my legs so sore they didn’t feel like they were a part of my body. When I saw it hit 3:00 I was crushed. I didn’t let up but instead decided that clock was not going to hit 3:01. With so many emotions, so much pain and so much excitement for the race to be over I grabbed the finish tape and held it high over my head for my step daughters to see! I ran that race for them and was very proud of winning although I didn’t feel that my time deserved a win. I am very hard on myself and I was not upset, just couldn’t believe I have to run another marathon now to try for sub 3! I crumpled up the finish tape and walked over to the table full of Gatorade cups and just kept drinking them, one right after another while apologizing for being such a slob. I was thirsty, most of the Gatorade and water I had during the race ended up in my nose or eyes.
As I finished my disgusting display of stuffing my face I realized there were people there with notepads and cameras. I just wanted to hug my family and kept looking at them on the other side of the gate! I was going to give the finish line banner to my step daughters but the race officials took it away and said it wasn’t for me to keep! It was so funny because winning a trail race usually involves a few people kicking around and then lying on the ground staring at the sky. This was so outside of my element and not what I expected. After asking me a bunch of questions the reporters let me bring them over to my family and one of them got a great picture of us! As an added bonus I won some loot and found out I finished 5th overall!
It was a bittersweet day! I went there with one goal which I didn’t achieve but instead a surprise win! Honestly I would have traded that win for a sub 3 hour finish, but heck, I can check off a marathon win from my bucket list even though that was never on the list! I was extremely proud at how strong and smart I ran. I could not have executed a more perfect race and those 16 seconds, my watch got 26.4 miles so….in essence I did break 3 hours but I will be back to try another race that is flatter and I will try my hardest to do the full 16 weeks of training instead of only 3. Anyone that can run under 3 hours is a total badass in my book. The dedication, training and sacrifice needed to pull that off is amazing! I could barely walk the day after the race!
This week is a week of super easy running, biking and a lot of eating and relaxing. It is time to put some weight back on (I ate like a pig and still lost way too much weight from the training) and enjoy the off season with some nordic and backcountry skiing, snowshoe running, hiking mountains and spending time with friends and family!
The biggest win of the year for me was realizing that being fast isn’t important to me but instead having fun and being a good role model to my steppies. I want to teach them to never stop having fun, to do things that make them happy and to understand that they can have anything they want if they work hard and put in the effort to make it happen. I want them go grow up to be strong women who can support themselves and get involved with someone because they want that person in their life, not because they need them. The only way we can change the world is by teaching our children through our actions.
I want to thank my sponsors La Sportiva, JULBO USA, Choucas Hats and UltrAspire for their support, your products are absolutely wonderful! Thank you to my coach Jack for putting up with me and working so hard to keep me on track. Thank you to Ryan and Jack puppy for being my partners in life on and off the trail! Thank you to Zoe and Hannah for accepting me into their lives and loving me. Being a step mom is not the easiest role but our relationship over the last few years has become full of love! These girls have given me the gift of motherhood and I love it! Thank you to my awesome and fun friends, my girl friends know how to have fun on and off the trail! I treasure our time together and thank you for taking time out of your life to spend it with me. I am a ridiculously lucky girl!