Relentless Forward Motion

Well, marathon #2 is in the books.

I would have liked to start this post off telling you I still can’t stop crying happy tears because I got that BQ, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 4:15:40 is what you’ll find with my name if you go lurking through the Fargo Marathon results.

hmm, looks kinda far when you spread it all out on a big map like that...

Pre-race I was pretty calm–especially for me. We ate dinner at Olive Garden, and I had the exact same thing I did before the St. Cloud half (plain spaghetti, breadsticks, and salad). Then I got to go see Alishia (and 6,199 other people) run the 5k. We didn’t spend much time at the expo and I was on my feet less than half an hour at the 5k, so don’t go gasping at me being an idiot (just yet.)

there she goes!


After the 5k Jeff and I headed back to our hotel. Alishia (she’s my best friend from high school) kindly offered to stay with me that night just so I had someone to talk to and whatnot–so after she got dinner with her family she came over. She’s a year from being done with PT school, and was able to do some fancy moves on my shoulder to make it feel TONS better (oh yeah, did I mention my shoulder was all jacked because I got rear-ended on my way home from work the night before? Yeah.)

I actually got a great night’s sleep, and popped right up when my alarm went off at 5:50. I quickly set to making coffee and toast (I brought my own coffeemaker and toaster…psycho) and getting ready. Everything felt good. My shoulder had loosened up, my stomach was great. I was ready to do this thing.

the breakfast of champions. check out how good I look when I first wake up (note the sarcasm)

the awesome sign Alishia made for me!

ready to run!

The forecast for race day had been all over the place in the past week, but the theme was some combination of hot, humid, windy, possibly rainy, and gross. It was drizzling when we left the hotel, but fortunately the start-finish at the Fargodome meant we got to stay inside until it was time to line up. I went to the bathroom like 4 times (do I have to pee? No? I think I better go get in line again then…) Jeff and I ran into Rob (of Dailymile fame), found Jenessa, then made our way to the front entrance until we couldn’t put it off any longer.

Once we got outside, it was cold. And it was raining a little harder. Alishia had kindly parked the car for us so I wasn’t sure if we’d see her again, but we did just as I was looking for my pacer. She hugged me and told me she was so proud of me. Thanks, friend. Just what you need to hear as you’re lining up : )

here we go!

I found my pacer and listened to her rattle off how she was planning to run even splits, what to do at water stops (for the first-timers), blah blah blah. I was focused intently on my Garmin, which was refusing to find a signal. It finally did with less than a minute to spare, but boy did that give me a scare.

Once we were off, I did just exactly what Coach told me to. I kept the pacer within shouting distance, kept my head up, and just ran. I was in the middle/back of the 3:40 pack, and everything felt amazing. Oh, and in the first mile I saw a power line fall down and almost hit some runners. True story.

I heard my Garmin chirp at mile one and was surprised to see an 8:44. It actually didn’t throw me off though–I figured it was better to be 20 seconds slow than 20 seconds fast. I turned my music up and just ran through the rain, keeping the pacer close enough, but not too close.

Maybe the biggest mistake I made was not paying closer attention to my Garmin, but Coach said check her every few miles to make sure she’s on track, not keep your eyes on your Garmin constantly–so I didn’t.

And then we ran a couple 8:14s, a couple 8:18s, an 8:19–and soon my average pace was below goal pace. And I knew this couldn’t last. I let her go here, because I know my limits. I was still feeling fine, but I knew this pace wouldn’t feel fine at mile 22.

The next place I remember really thinking was at mile 10, where I checked my pace band and realized I was only 20 seconds off the pace after my slow-down to try and FIND my pace. I was in good spirits here–I truly would have been THRILLED with a 3:41 and I told myself so.

Something happened shortly after that. My feet had been feeling, well, uncomfortable up to this point, but they started to really hurt. I’ve never had tons of problems with blisters, but I could feel them forming on my feet. Every step was kind of painful. (THEORY! My shoes got soaked in the rain that lasted well through the first hour, plus I stepped in some puddles that I just wasn’t able to avoid. Might have been why my usually-trusty purple shoes FAILED me.)

Somewhere around here Jeff and the 3:50 group passed me. I could tell he was worried about me–he started blurting out encouraging things, patted me on the back, and told me I could run this pace in my sleep. (And I can! What the hell! Why couldn’t I run it Saturday?) I waved him off, gave him a smile and hoped he understood that meant I was ok. I wasn’t falling apart. Wasn’t crying. I just couldn’t find the gas pedal.

I hit the half in 1:55:03. Yeah, do the math. That second half? Embarrassing.

I still had my head in it, but nothing was working and I didn’t know why. I was following my nutrition plan (side note: I squirted my 2nd Hammer Gel all over my arm accidentally. Not wanting to lose calories, I licked it off. All of it. Can’t wait to see if the race photographers caught that) and my stomach was being good to me. My feet felt like they were on fire, but otherwise I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific that was wrong–I just couldn’t speed up.

I hit 20 3:06:49, which didn’t bum me out at all–I’m telling you guys, I was so tough mentally out there Saturday. I told myself this is about how long it took me to do 20-milers last fall, and back then, that was the fastest I could go. This was turning into an epic fail and I was at least still holding that pace. Keep running, I told myself. You’re still in this.

It was hard for me to figure out where I was on pace to finish because my average pace got so so so SO much slower. Around 15 was when I had to start playing games with myself. (“At 16 you get to take a gel! Just get to 16!”) For a brief moment around 15 I wondered if I should drop out, save my legs for the Minneapolis full in 2 weeks (I’m doing the half there–as a training run) and get it right there. But then I remembered I bought a finisher’s jacket at the expo, and DAMMIT, I was going to wear it.

My last 10k took about a thousand years. I had a friend/coworker who got married Saturday (the 22nd) and he said to think of him in mile 22. So that became my new bait. “Get to 22. You promised Brent you’d run it for him!” At 22 we turned into the ever-increasing wind and it hit me so hard I actually stumbled backwards a little bit. I laughed a little. (Because I think otherwise I might have been tempted to cry.)

At this point, all I had on my mind was to just keep running. No walking, I told myself. You don’t need to walk. I slowed down during a water stop somewhere in here to take Powerade–my stomach had started to knot up and the thought of swallowing more gel made me gag. It was getting hot. It was humid. I was freaking tired.

At 23 I thought I might be able to pick it up–just a little over a 5k left! But my legs didn’t seem to get the memo we were supposed to go faster. I don’t know what the hell happened, but I just couldn’t RUN. So I kept shuffling along, telling myself I would eventually get there.

The final turn into the dome is a slight downhill and I picked it up as much as I could heading in. I saw Alishia and her bright pick poster out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised to find myself with an ear-to-ear grin. I raised my hands over my head and had the BIGGEST smile on my face when I crossed that line. I didn’t expect to be so happy, but I’m glad I was.

finally almost there!

I sure do love the finish line.

I found Jeff pretty quickly and muttered something about it being the “biggest f*%king bonk ever” but that I didn’t care. I ran the whole way. All 26.2 miles. He PR’d by something like 17 minutes, and broke 4 hours! We went to get some chocolate milk and basically moaned for the next 20 minutes or so–I was thisclose to throwing up and my feet hurt so badly I could barely walk.

When Alishia found us (she had my phone) I was able to call my Coach and tell him the bad news. He’s a good guy though, and he wasn’t hard on me–in fact, I almost got the feeling he thought he was responsible. “I’ll fix this. Don’t worry about it,” he told me later. This was all me though. I could have let the pacer go sooner. Not sure what I could have done about my shoes. And I’m sure I still have lots of mental toughness to learn, but I gave it what I could.


best cheerleader ever : )

Jenessa's a marathoner now too!

wearing that finisher's jacket!

I know a 4:15 is no big deal, and I should have been able to run 4:15 with my hands tied behind my back–but I don’t care. I ran the whole way. After what happened in Philly last fall, I’d never felt like a real marathoner because I had to walk SO MUCH that day. But today I can tell you I know what it feels like to RUN 26.2 miles. (It hurts! Ha!) It would have been so easy to say SCREW IT at mile 15 when I knew things were getting really ugly–but I didn’t. And that’s something.

You know what else isn’t SO bad about my crusty time? Last year at this time 6.2 miles was the farthest I had ever run. And this time would have been amazing to me in Philly. It’s nice to see that even my bonk has improved : )

Even though it was only 48 hours ago that I was ready to call it quits, I’m sitting here thinking about how I’ll get it right next time. More miles. More endurance. More toughness. The marathon is still my Everest–I haven’t gotten it quite right yet–but that’s alright for now. I know I’m capable of doing better, and that’s ultimately what gets me out on the road at 5 am. Knowing I can be better.

Happy running.

10 Responses to “Relentless Forward Motion”

  1. 1 Doug Welch May 24, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Hey! Great race report! Sounds almost identical to my Boston Marathon experience. I was shooting for 3:45 (or at least a sub4 as it was my first mararthon), and somewhere around 21.5/22 miles the wheels came off, I had a HUGE blister (and I’d never gotten a blister before) and my left calf cramped-up. I ended-up finishing in 4:14:09 (our half splits were identical, LOL).

    It took me a while to get over the disappointment. You seem to be handling it better than I did. But when I heard my 3 year-old daughter telling people that her “Daddy won the marathon!” It somehow made it alright. I realized that just finishing a marathon is a victory in itself. I’ve resolved myself to getting it right next time. I’m going to take an hour off of my time and qualify for Boston IN Boston in 2011 (<3:20:59).

    I love your attitude! Keep up the good work!

  2. 2 sassy molassy May 24, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Congrats on your finish even though it wasn’t the time you wanted. Some days the body just doesn’t do what it’s capable of. Good for you for sticking with it. Sometimes mental toughness is the hardest part of it all.

  3. 3 rob horton May 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    excellent report. thanks for the link. i see a dream marathoning experience in your future. i had a similar experience to you on this one up there in fargo. see you on dailymile, and hope to see you at more events in the future.

  4. 4 jeri May 24, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    omg, you do not know how long I stared at that map waiting for it to refresh at the different timing points. obsessive fan, party of 1 please!

    looooooved that you ate the gel off of your arm. I dropped one on the ground in dallas after ripping off the “lid” and still sucked it down. no germs when you’re running right?

    Also love the great finishing and post-race pic. Kudos to your stomach for not freaking out and double kudos for your mental toughness and refusing to walk a step of this puppy. Can’t wait to see what Oct. brings you. 😀

    • 5 Ramazan January 24, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      I (and some other first timers) used a pace group for my first maorthan, our goal was to finish somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45 so weI lined up between the 2 pace groups and we headed out. Through the first few miles the goal was to keep between the 2 orange signs. After about mile 4 and a PAP break we set about finding the 4:30 sign again and spent the next couple of miles reeling it in slowly so as not to tax ourselves to much. Once we hit the half way, we decided (since we were all feeling good) to put some distance between us and the 4:30 group, our simple determination was as long as they were behind us and we kept running at our comfortable pace we should finish at or below our goal, which we did and we all came in under 4:30, which coincedently so did the pacer @ 4:28 and change.Although we didn’t run with the pacer it was a very helpful tool, seeing as how I don’t own a GPS and frankly doing math in my head is hard enough with out trying to run 26.2 at the same time. I agree run your own pace stop when you need to and get ahead if your feeling good. Its a tool to use, how useful and helpful it is, is entirely up to you.

  5. 6 gpetitto May 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Excellent story, Jenn! It’s totally hilarious that you managed to lick the gel off your arm. That would be a ridiculous picture. 🙂

    All in all you powered through difficulty and learned more about the confounding challenge that is the marathon. You’ll meet your marathon goals in time, I’m confident in that! In the mean time there is plenty to be proud of.

    • 7 Maravillas November 12, 2013 at 7:23 am

      No offense, but at a nlaery 14-minute per mile pace, it would be quite easy to make up a handful of minutes in the final miles to make it to the goal. This is a very, very slow jogging pace, so unless the pacers were specifically for race walkers (not runners), the pacer was probably right on. I’ve worked as a pacer many times (2-hour half marathon) and it is not uncommon at all for pacers to start out a bit more slowly and pick it up at the end. That is a very common race technique. It allows runners to warm up and ease into pace, then finish with all they’ve got. I imagine the pacer did in fact get it.

  6. 8 amyreinink May 26, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I am so impressed at your mental toughness! This strikes me as the most important part of running a marathon, both in terms of getting one’s body across the finish line and learning the life lessons the marathon imparts. We’re not professional runners who have failed if we don’t hit a certain goal time; we’re people who think running marathons can somehow make us better, stronger people in every facet of our lives. You’ll call on that mental strength when life hands you real challenges, and you’ll know you can get through those, too. CONGRATS—and best of luck in your continued BQ chase!

  7. 9 luau June 11, 2010 at 10:29 am

    You’ll get that BQ – I have no doubt!

    • 10 Cristi November 12, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Hi Cindi! It was great to see you today! I fell apart at mile 20. My legs were cramping and I staertd to walk (more than just through water stops). At mile 25 I saw the clock and realized that a BQ was still within reach, but I think I missed it by 35 seconds. Waiting for the results to show up. Still loved the day though and the spectators are just so awesome. What an awesome race for you today!!!!!! CELEBRATE!!!!!Looking forward to your race report.

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