Monday, April 14, 2014

Vernonia Marathon Race Recap

This is kinda rambly and all over the place- but I wanted to type this up when it was fresh. Sorry it's a long one.

Vernonia has been on my to-do list for while. It is so beautiful but far enough away that I just never have the time to drive out there for a training run. I signed up for the marathon as soon as it opened last fall because I wanted an April marathon this year and with Eugene moving to July - that ruled that one for me. With the ages of my girls (3,6) I just find it easier training for a marathon through the winter/spring since the girls are in school during the week when I run, and I have a super supportive husband that allows me to be gone Saturday mornings.

The training cycle went really well - I followed my modified version of Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 (I did less miles during the week than the plan called for, but always made sure the week at least totaled or exceed the weekends mileage). Had a few aches here and there, but made it through without any serious body breakdowns. Many thanks to Acceleration Chiropractic for helping hold my body together.

Marathon week I caught a cold from my girls. I was nervous and took Zicam and Elderberry and Vitamin C religiously. By race morning, I was ok to run, but not 100%. I was also nervous as the weather report was calling for a gorgeous day with a high of 72. I had not yet run a single warmer training run.

You drive to Banks Middle School, pick up your bib and shirt and then a bus takes you out to Vernonia. There was a warm place to hang out prior to the race and ample bathrooms. I headed to the start line at 9:25, only to find out that they were going to be starting late to wait for the buses that hadn't made it yet. There were no bathrooms close to the start, and I began to realize I should have gone one last time. 20 some minutes later the race begins.

The race begins on the road and through Vernonia and around the lake - the first bathrooms were quickly swarmed, so I opted to wait. It was so fun getting to see the speedsters come through on the return from the lake loop. I was running at a faster clip than originally planned, but I knew it wasn't unrealistic based on my paces and training, and since it felt 'easy' I decided to keep at it. I hit the bathroom at mile 4/5 and felt a million times better. Once on the trail, I was so happy with this as my choice of marathon. It was stunning. I was greeted by a cheering section of sweet friends at mile 9 that made the drive out to support me (with kids) and I almost started to cry.
Cheering section at mile 9

Feeling good here at mile 9

From miles 9-13 its a slow steady climb- and I did start to feel it. It was getting hot. Many of the aid stations had run out of water. They only had Coke. There is a steep drop with switchbacks into the finish line for the half and I jogged it slow. Then there is a serious hill. Thankfully, my friend that gave me a ride that morning was there cheering and ran me up the hill after his fast half marathon finish. I could tell right away my legs didn't like that steep drop. 14.5 is where the wheels fell off. I realized one of my eyes had gone blurry (this is something that has happened a few times, post long runs that I thought had to do with dehydration or low blood sugar). But what was more concerning was the searing pain coming from my right IT band. The entire training cycle my IT band had not been the issue. I had this come on suddenly during the Runaway Pumpkin and was able to push through and keep running. This pain was worse. I tried to run, and the mind numbing pain stopped me. I walked and even that hurt. I went for the Tylenol I had stuck in my backpack hoping that could get me through. I stopped and did some quad and IT stretches. I tried again. No dice. Serious doubt started to come over me. Would I even be able to finish today? Would I need to call it in? How long would this take if I just walked the rest? I tried again and was able to run for a while.. this began a long cycle of walking and then trying to run for as long as I could and then walking again. It was a pain roller coaster as the pain would ease up and then get more intense. I can't tell you when, I did get to a point where I decided I will finish. I knew that my goals were out the window, but they were replaced by the ultimate goal- just to finish. This race didn't end up looking like I had planned, but I was thankful for all the (mostly) happy miles I had run until this day. So my marathon was going to be a struggle - that's so much of life and the greater lesson I wanted to share with my girls was pushing through and finishing - even when it sucks and it's hard. I thought of my dear friend Cody that endured months upon months of back pain and took strength from her, and knowing that she was lifting me up in prayer. At the end of the day, it wasn't going to matter how long this took (well, except for to my family that was waiting…) all that mattered (to me) was finishing. I know I have a better marathon time in me. But today wasn't going to be that day.

Miles 15-20 are pretty much downhill… which is awesome if you aren't in pain. When I could make myself run I was running a 10:30-10:45 pace. I was annoyed I couldn't just 'let it go' and run the way I wanted. But then I kept telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There was a woman a head of me that was my carrot - she was running and walking too (I eventually took her at mile 25.5 and beat her!!). My goal was to never entirely lose her. I saw my family around mile 15 and it gave me a happy burst - and then again at 19 when I was really struggling. My husband told me to keep going. Don't stop. So I did. I prayed so much. The night before the race, I listed out names of CDH Angels and Survivors that I would think of for each mile. To remember and honor and be inspired by these lives. I prayed for their families.

Once I hit mile 20 and the flat path, I knew I was going to finish. Worst case, I could walk 6 miles. I got to see my family 2 more times during that section and from miles 22-25 I was able to run/walk and pass some people which was motivating. Mile 25 brought me a big surprise. My runner friend Michael was there and was going to run me in. He knew based on what I said my time goal was that I must be struggling. I have to say runners are some of the most amazing folks. The support and encouragement they give to one another is pretty incredible. I don't think I would have run that entire mile if it weren't for him. He talked me in- pointing out potential road hazards along the way. I got to the school and had to do one lap around the track. I wanted to walk more than anything in this world. My knee was on fire - but I couldn't walk now - with just .3 left, I knew I must needed to dig deep and push through the pain.

For the final .2 I listed Meg. She is the mama runner that was killed a few months ago training for Boston. Her story affected me deeply. I had said before the race that I would carry her in my heart during this run - and I did. I thought of her many times when I wanted to quit. I imagined her with me telling me I could do this- I could finish. That last lap was for her. I wouldn't let up - because this was her .2.
My Garmin time is 2 min less than official due to auto pause and me stopping. 

I not only finished, I finished strong with my head held high.
My new favorite race photo ever! Thanks hubby!

My time was slower than my first, but honestly I am shocked for as much as I walked that second half that I came in only 7 minutes slower than Vancouver. There is a bathroom stop in there, and actually stopping at a couple aid stations to dump water on my head. I stopped multiple times to stretch out my quads. I am even more proud of this marathon. Because I struggled. Because I wanted to give up. Because I didn't.

It's been said marathon's are much like life - you plan and plan, but ultimately you are not in control of what happens that day. There are pieces you can control (your training, diet, sleep, etc) but the weather, what your body does that day.. so many elements are out of your control. It's how you deal with that- that tells the bigger story. If I had run my 4:48 marathon, I would be singing it from the rooftops and would feel pretty happy.. but that would fade and be replaced by the need to beat that number. I didn't make my goal - and I'm disappointed things didn't go the way I wanted, but I am so proud of myself. I finished my second marathon. This, from the girl who used to say, "I'll never run a marathon."

-Beautiful course, good amount of aid stations some with Gu, candy and other goodies.
-Awesome volunteers- communicated information very well
-Did I mention the course was spectacular?
-I liked the hoody Leslie Jordan cotton blend race shirt. It's different and not another technical tee I won't wear.

-20 min late start with no potties close to start (still wishing I had gone in the bushes).
-ran out of water at several aid stations on a hot day, only had Coke
-ran out of food by the time I finished :-(
-no medical at end, no ice.. Thankfully a sweet Banks Middle School Volunteer ran and got me some from inside the school.
-little lonely. It's a small race and I went quite a while without seeing another runner.