Thursday, January 23, 2020

My dream did not come true in HOU: The race

The long version part 2 (the short version is here, the long version part 1 is here):
My dream did not come true in HOU,
but this guy's may have!

Before the race I enjoyed seeing familiar friendly faces in the ADP corral, and after a little more warming up we were walked up to the starting line behind the elites.  I could see the 2:45 pacer's sign not far ahead.  Both my coach and husband had encouraged me to get as close to the starting line as possible, since OTQ goes off gun time, but I would have had to be aggressive to get any closer than I was.  I counted the seconds from the gun until I crossed the starting mat, and it was about 10.  I then settled into rhythm with the women around me, gauging off the 2:45 pacer.
It was still somewhat dark at the start, but I am in here
Find me in pink
The race was pretty crowded initially, especially because the half and full start together, but I kept the pacer's sign in my sights and by a couple of miles in, our distinct OTQ-chasing group had formed.  The group was huge, and I stuck to my plan of running in the back of it, which I thought would be best for drafting, navigating the aid stations, and just letting the group pull me along.  The pace didn't feel as easy as it had felt in Indy, but I've had all kind of combinations of feel bad/run fast, feel good/run slow, etc., so I didn't worry.  I never worried during this race, and I guess it is because I had it in my head that I was going to either maintain OTQ pace drop; no in between.  Although I knew I had bronchitis, I never thought about it.
The pace group
Probably the only time Ryan Hall
will take a photo of the group I'm
running with
The early miles flew by and I loved being part of the pack.  From my spot in the middle back I could see almost everything that was happening within the pack.  Around mile 5, three women in different parts of the pack fell (maybe from potholes or manhole covers?), and the women around them checked on and encouraged them tirelessly.  They all got up and kept moving.  In that shuffle, another woman's bib number was torn off, and a woman behind her picked it up and the whole pack helped find out who it belonged to and passed it back up to her.  At every aid station, those closest to the cups would grab fluids and then share with the other women around them - although I now apologize to anyone I shared with!  I've been in OTQ-attempt packs before, but never so large, and never as special as this one; these were the women who would not give up, who were fighting until the bitter end to get the standard.  Everyone in the pack knew what it was like to try for it and come up short.
I just love these group shots
Before the race in addition to DNFing I'd also considered that I could turn off with the half marathoners if I knew I couldn't make the full.  When the half split off around mile 7, I was getting into a groove and thinking there was actually a chance for me in the full.  I told myself the power of the pack would pull me along.

My optimism lasted until about mile 10, when I fell off the pack.  I tried my best to hang on, but I physically couldn't any more.  The group pulled ahead of me and as I watched the gap widen, I knew that my dream was fading away.  I teared up.  It was truly over for 2020.

I decided I'd run to the half timing mat so my husband and dad would get my time and know that I was off pace and would be dropping.  A bit before mile 12, my friend Laura passed me.  I fought back tears when she asked if I was okay, and I told her I was too sick to do it and that I was going to drop out.  She told me her husband was just ahead and she'd take me to him so he could drive me back to the finish line.  I'd thought that was the option I'd want, but I found myself unable to step off the course; I thanked them and told them I was going to keep going.

I'm not completely sure why I couldn't bring myself to stop; I had truly planned to and my lungs sounded like those of an overweight smoker with COPD, but I just kept running.  I thought maybe I'd run to mile 15 or 16, depending on when I saw a medical tent.  26.2 miles isn't intimidating to me at this point; 26.2 mile at a fast pace is, but not the distance itself. 

Around mile 15 I spotted Ashley up ahead.  I met her before Indy when we were both chasing the OTQ there, and we'd kept in touch on social media.  I was sorry to see her because of what that meant for her goal, but I was also thinking that sometimes God gives us storms in our lives to help others through theirs, so she and I could help each other through the last 11 miles of this non-ideal marathon.  We fell into stride together and chatted for the next several miles.  Connecting with her at that point really lifted my spirits.  We were nowhere near the pace we'd trained for, but we were blessed to be out there running.

Ashley stopped at a bathroom around mile 20, and at that point I figured I might as well finish.  I hadn't looked at my watch the entire race - when I was with the pace group I'd just stayed with them, and after I fell off I'd just been jogging.  I had some hesitancy about finishing over 3 hours, because I haven't run a marathon over 3:00 since the first time I broke 3:00, but my inner voice saying, "Who cares if you don't break 3:00?  No one cares!!" won, and I decided I wasn't going to drop out when I physically could finish.

There are legitimate reasons to drop out of race, and I respect that when runners make that choice it's the right choice for them.  There are races that I should have DNFed (ahem, Indy Women's 2018), and ended up super injured by not dropping.  In general I think if you're going to cause an injury to get much worse or risk causing any long term damage to your body, you should drop.  In this situation I knew I'd make myself more sick, but I didn't think there was a risk beyond that and physically I knew I could finish at a slower pace.  Most of all, I wanted to continue.  If the Trials window had been open a few more weeks and I could take another shot, I may have stopped, but I thought dropping would be very simple and it was not!

When I saw the mile 24 course clock, I had a brief pity party a la "I should be finishing right now" followed by "wait, I can still go sub-3:00 if I run 7:30 or under for these final 2.2 miles".  Within the last 2 miles, I heard numerous spectators yelling for the sub-3:00 runners.  I saw plenty of elated runners around me realizing they were going to go sub-3:00.  I picked it up some to make sure, and I crossed the finish line in 2:58:35, for my 10th consecutive sub-3:00, which was definitely more than I'd expected during the second half of the race.  My dad's video of the finish is here.

Finish shot - half marathoners on the left
As I walked through the finish chute, it felt like everyone around me was celebrating their sub-3's.  People kept asking everyone, "Did you go sub-3?  I went sub-3!!!"  The floodgates of my tears opened, and I'm not sure if others thought I was crying because I was happy about breaking 3 or what, but I kept answering, "Yes, I did" and congratulating the excited sub-3 runners all around.  It did give me perspective, though - because three years ago my PR was 2:58:53 and I'd teared up from happiness when I ran that.

The finish chute seemed long because I knew it truly was the end.  There would be no "try again" for 2020.  I didn't do it.  I didn't do it at Houston because of illness.  I didn't do it at CIM because I missed the race due to a death.  I didn't do it at Indy because the wind.  I didn't do it before then because I was never truly fit enough before Indy; I was close so I tried anyway though.  This goal that I'd thought of every day for almost 3 years was not accomplished and never could be.
You could say the marathon has broken my heart, but also that running gives me more than I ever deserve.  I'm not sure I'd make it through the stress of life without it, and the friendships it's given me are worth the world.  Being able to do this thing I love every day is such a blessing.  Being close enough to the OTQ time that it was a realistic goal was such a blessing.  I am so thankful God gave me this passion.  He has different plans for me on February 29, and I trust that - but I think it's okay to be disappointed.

At the same time, I wouldn't take back any of the training I've done.  It's disappointing that it didn't result in a marathon time fast enough for the USATF, but the process brought me so much joy that it feels silly to be too upset.  Not every dream is meant to be realized, but every dream serves a purpose.

"God is within her, she will not fall." - Psalm 46:5

Read my post about the last-minute OTQ chasers here.
See the pre-race mention of the 2:45 pace group in the Fast Women Newsletter here.
Read the Runners World article about the 2:45 pace group here.

Recaps from my other four attempts:
CIM 2017
Houston 2018
Grandma's 2019
Indy Monumental 2019

My dream did not come true in HOU: Pre-race

The long version part 1 (the short version is here):
Race morning
The road to Houston was rocky, literally and figuratively.  At many times I felt like running another marathon was dumb, although I did all of the training for it.  About 10 days before the race, my daughter had the stomach flu and I figured I was a goner, but even with her in my bed I never got sick!  We planned to leave for Houston early Friday morning, but ended up leaving around 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, after my daughter's first band concert, to drive a few hours south to avoid the ice storm that was predicted to come through overnight.  Friday I woke up with a slight sore throat but figured it was just from sleeping in a somewhat cold environment and didn't give it a second thought.
My ride to Houston consisted of fiction,
podcasts, snacks, & compression
It was pouring rain Friday morning, so I did my shake out run mid-day somewhere random in Texas while my dad and husband ate lunch.  We arrived in Houston before dark on Friday, and I was feeling tired, but I chalked it up to sitting and sleeping more than usual.  Saturday I woke up with my throat more sore and feeling weak, and I again figured cold air made my throat sore and that I was just sluggish from being less active than normal, but I bought some cold medicine, zinc, and elderberry just in case.  I did the OTQ group run on Saturday morning, and felt kind of off - but I often feel off when tapering so still wasn't worried.  We then went to the race expo and checked into our hotel.  I took a short nap after lunch and when I got up from laying down I heard myself wheeze.  I took some deep breaths to double check, and then tearfully told my husband, "I'm wheezing, it's over."
This is how you get in the ADP corral!
After a little break down, I tried to be optimistic.  The power of the mind is huge, so I decided I was going to will myself well.  I decided I was going to wake up feeling perfectly fine on Sunday.  I decided that I was in good enough shape to run 2:45 sick.  I decided that the vitamins I had would cure me.  I decided I was still doing to do it.

Spoiler:  all of that deciding didn't work.
Not enough
I woke up Sunday morning more sick:  wheezing, weakness, sore throat.  I get bronchitis once or twice every year, and I have since I was a kid (I think it's related to having asthma as a kid).  It's pretty much the only illness I ever get!  So I knew what I had, but I didn't want to admit it - and, to be fair, I ran a decent half with bronchitis is May, so thought there was still a chance.

Since it really was the bottom of the 9th - the last day to qualify for the 2020 Trials - and since we were already in Houston, I figured there was nothing to do but go for it.  I didn't think I needed another marathon finish, or another 2:46-2:59.  In my mind, the options were 2:45:00 or DNF.  I told my dad and husband that I was going to go out with the 2:45 pace group, and if I was too sick to stay with them I would just drop out.  They were tracking me, and the race had timing mats every 5K, so they would know my status.

We walked to the ADP corral and I just didn't think about anything.  I didn't feel any pressure; I knew I was trained to run 6:15 pace for 26.2, I knew my body wasn't 100%, I knew I was going to give it my all on the day.  I also knew that it would be okay either way, and I didn't feel like I had anything to lose by trying, even if it seems dumb in retrospect (my lung function is terrible - sure, let's try for a marathon PR!).
My husband thought my throw away warm ups
were the greatest
ADP warm-up area
The story continues here.

My post about the last-minute OTQ chasers is here.
See the pre-race mention of the 2:45 pace group in the Fast Women Newsletter here.
Read the Runners World article about the 2:45 pace group here.

The Last-Minute OTQ Chasers

Throughout my Olympic Trials Qualifying time-chase, I've connected with many amazing women who shared the same goal.  Over the past couple of years, I've celebrated with several who have reached the goal.  I've commiserated with several who have missed.  I've connected with many who kept dreaming.

Before the Houston Marathon, I was included in a message group with the 2:45 pacer and other women planning to run with the group.  While I struggled with feeling like an outsider because I was struggling to find the same importance in the pursuit as I previously did after losing my brother, I related to the women and their passion.
Group photo before Saturday's shake-out run

No one plans to try for the OTQ on the very last day the qualifying window is open, 6 weeks before the Trials.  The women in this group hadn't achieved the standard for one reason or another:  near misses (one woman had run 2:45:02), injury (one woman was in a boot at her goal race), disagreeable weather, pregnancy, illness, simply a bad day, etc.  Some had breakthrough performances in the fall, such as dropping 5-10 minute PRs for 2:48-2:52s and wondered if they could dream a little bigger still.  Some had already raced 3 fall marathons, coming close each time.  Some had raced attempts just 2 weeks prior to Houston!
Pre-race note in Runners World
Pre-race note in Fast Women newsletter
These ladies were the most determined grittiest women you'll find.  Every single person felt that the perfect day would be her finishing in the very back of the huge pack in 2:45:00.  I passionately wanted every one of the women to get it, and I believe they all have a sub-2:45 in them.  I really realized that the difference between those who qualified and those who didn't was often just things aligning slightly differently - whether that was weather, a pace group, health, timing, etc.  It's just a different perspective when you're one of the 2:46s versus one of the 2:44s.
My friend Liz from Portland was among the
dreamers - she & I ran the Portland Marathon
together in 2009 (I ran a PR of 3:08 then)
Everyone loves the stories about the woman who got the standard in her first marathon, of the woman who ran it off of 50 miles a week, of the woman who ran it despite surgery or injury, of the woman who ran it 6 months postpartum (or while pregnant!), of the woman who did it because she just wanted it bad enough, of the woman who deserved it.  I guarantee that every women in the Houston last chance group wanted it more than bad enough and deserved it.  I'm thrilled for every woman who made it to the Trials - especially those for whom it didn't come easy to - and I celebrate this amazing time in U.S. women's marathoning.  But!  I admire the tenacity of the underdogs so much.  Some women tried for 10 years before they got it - others tried for 10 years to narrowly miss it.  Some ran several 2:45:XXs.  Some debuted with 4:00 marathons and kept showing up.  Talent is a beautiful thing, but hard work is even more beautiful.
Shake-out run taking off
Pre-shake out chatter
I am so thankful this goal has connected me with so many strong women, with so many hard-working dreamers.  I was so honored to be part of the Houston group.  I now have friends all over the U.S. who understand how I felt on January 20.  The goal is gone, but the spirit and community live on.

My dad's video from the OTQ shake-out run is here.

See the pre-race mention of the 2:45 pace group in the Fast Women Newsletter here.

My short Houston race recap is here.

Read my longer race recap part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Our group was featured in Runners World here (3 screenshots from article below)! 

Happy group
I'm glad Runners World didn't use this one since my face is halfway blocked!
Shake out run
Shake out run
My dad cheered for me at every attempt
My husband supported this chase 100%

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Houston, we had a problem (third edition)

The short-ish:

I wish I had a different title for this one - "OTQ in HOU: My dream came true!" seems pretty catchy to me.  Instead, on January 19, the fifth time I lined up chasing the 2:45:00 Olympic Trials qualifying standard, on the last possible day to qualify for the 2020 Trials, the outcome was not what I'd dreamed of.  No one can say that I went down without a fight, though!
I left Missouri Thursday night healthy, developed a sore throat on the road on Friday, started feeling weak on Saturday morning, and began wheezing Saturday afternoon.  Since we were already in Houston, I tried to be positive ("I'll wake up feeling great tomorrow!"), live in denial ("I'm fine"), rationalize ("I ran a 1:23 half in 80 degrees when sick before so I still have a chance"), and tried every illness remedy I could think of:  zinc, vitamin C, hot tea, a hot acetaminophen respiratory treatment mix, elderberry, Emergen-Z, lots of water, and rest.

I decided I would start with the 2:45 pace group and if I fell off I'd drop out to avoid getting more sick.  I knew it was a very long shot that I'd be able to PR while sick, but with it being the last possible chance to qualify I knew I'd rather go out at goal pace and die off versus running a more conservative and even pace and coming in between 2:46-3:00.  "PR or ER", right?!  After the race an urgent care nurse practitioner confirmed I had bronchitis, although thankfully I did not land in the ER.

I fell off the OTQ pack around mile 10, and decided to run to the half timing mat so my family would get an update and know I was off pace and would be dropping.  Shortly before the half my friend Laura passed me, and after I told her I was going to drop she connected me with her husband (who was conveniently around mile 12) to drive me back, but I couldn't bring myself to step off the course and told them I appreciated them greatly but was going to keep going.

At the half I decided I'd go to maybe 15-16, depending on when I saw a medical tent.  Then I saw Ashley, another friend I'd met through this pursuit, ahead.  I worked on reeling her in, and we then ran together until almost mile 20, chatting the entire time.  We both knew our big dream goal was gone, but we enjoyed our ability to relax and run.  When she stopped at a porta-potty, we were almost to 20 so I figured I might as well just finish the thing.  I never looked at my watch during the race, but at that point I felt like I was running over 8:00 pace but after some internal debate decided "who cares" about messing up my sub-3:00 streak.  I was going to finish if it took me 3:45.

It wasn't until the race clock at mile 24 that I realized I was actually going to be under 3:00, as long as I ran the final couple of miles in 7:30ish or faster.  I tried to pick it up to make sure, running with others striving for a sub-3:00 and hearing the crowds yell "You've got the sub-3:00!" as we passed.  I finished in 2:58:45 gun time (results here).

I have far too many words for the short version, but literally and metaphorically, the story does not end here.  However, unlike the other four times I've tried, this time there is no "try again" since the qualifying window is closed for 2020, which is a bitter pill to swallow.  I trust that God has a better plan for me, but I've also accepted that there are many things we won't understand on this side of Heaven, and why he took my brother so early is one of them, and that has become intertwined with my recent marathon journey (although it does make the OTQ feel very trivial).

Read my post about the last-minute OTQ chasers here.
See the pre-race mention of the 2:45 pace group in the Fast Women Newsletter here.
Read the Runners World article about the 2:45 pace group here.
Read my longer race recap part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Final kick

Monday, January 13, 2020

Houston, we have a problem...

The past couple of months have been a lot.  To summarize, I missed the OTQ by 68 seconds in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, but since the race was very windy it boosted my confidence that I had a sub-2:45 in me in better weather.  I set my sights on running the California International Marathon, where the weather is almost always ideal and the net downhill course alone would get me a time faster than I ran at Indy.  I just know that I would have run the standard at CIM, but my brother passed away a few days before the race so I did not go to Sacramento.  At that point, I also decided I was done with OTQ-chasing, but at the encouragement of my family and because I needed a structured training schedule either way, I asked my coach to train me as if I was going to run Houston.

For most of December, I followed my training plan exactly while at the same time believing there was no way I'd feel up for running Houston.  I love the day-to-day training so much that this didn't seem odd to me at all, but many other people thought I was nuts for running 90+ mile weeks with workouts when I didn't know what I was training for.  In the back of my mind, I am sure I wanted to keep Houston as an option, but it wasn't until December 29 that I decided I was actually going to go for it.

I then had a week of "I'm doing this" followed by a week of "I can't do this".  I am so tired emotionally and mentally.  I want to want to do this - I've had this goal for so long - but it's not the same anymore.  It seems so trivial to drive over 20 hours round trip to run a marathon just to try for a time that would get me into another marathon with 500 other women in February.  I could lament on and on, but in light of everything this all just seems dumb now.  I am also sad that my Big Dream Goal now feels so trivial.

I'm in a message group for the Houston OTQ pace group, and the things the other women are saying are just what I would have said before, but now I feel like an outsider because I don't think like they do now.  I have no doubt that I'm going to keep running and competing, but I just can't bring myself to care about the OTQ even a fraction of the amount I used to.  Someone once told me "It's fantastic to be close enough that it's a realistic goal", and today I'm satisfied with being 68 seconds away, and with having run 5 marathons in the 2:40s.

As race day looms, I've been trying to work on believing an OTQ is in me.  I've made a list of the reasons I can do it.  I've looked back on my training logs for a boost.  I know I'm the most fit I've ever been.  But I guess what I keep landing on is that while I believe I can do it, I just don't care like I used to.  Will I always regret it if I don't try?  If so, is that alone reason enough to try?  Will the 2024 standard be too fast to consider trying?

Also, just because I believe I can run sub-2:45 doesn't mean I believe I can do it at Houston.  I have been worried that I extended my season too much and am past peak now.  My January running hasn't gone as well as the previous few months, but I am also not sure how much of that is mental and how much is physical, and I always train slower in cold weather.

I have changed my mind about going to this race multiple times.  I'm sure I'm driving my family crazy over it.  I don't know that my explanations make any sense to anyone else; I've done all of the training and what else am I going to do this weekend, right?  I know it's not rational, but it's where I'm at.  Taper crazies plus grief is a very irrational combination.

Ironically, this is the second time I've used a variation of "Houston, we have a problem..." as a post title (the first is here)...
2018 Houston expo

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Running Recap

Somehow, another year passed!  I learned a great deal on this journey around the sun.

I ran 3853.6 miles this year (3854 per Strava), which was a significant yearly mileage PR, surpassing the 3047 I ran in 2018 and the 3043 I ran in 2017.  I didn't check my yearly mileage until December 31, because I am already too obsessed with all numbers running related, but I knew I was in for a yearly mileage best since I've been running my highest mileage ever and haven't taken any time off.  Before 2017, I never ran anything remotely close to 3000.
My top 9 2019 photos on my running Instagram account
I ran my first 400 mile month (December) and my first and second 100 mile weeks in the fall, although each was on the rolling 7 and not a Monday through Sunday week.  I ran my first ever 90 mile week in February.  Through this I learned that I really LOVE mileage!

I ran PRs in the full marathon at Indy Monumental, in the half marathon twice (at the Indy Women's Half then at the White River Half), and in the 5K at the Panther Run.

I ran 3 full marathons:  the Chisholm Trail Marathon on March 24, Grandma's Marathon on June 22, and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 9.  Although Chisholm Trail was my slowest marathon in a few years, I was very happy with it off of the limited post-injury training I had, and that I was able to run it at all.  Grandma's was my second fastest marathon at that time (now my third fastest), which I was also very happy with off of a fairly short training cycle.  Indy is my current PR, which I was of course happy about but I also sure wished I could have found 68 more seconds there.

I set 3 Missouri state recordsage 38 half marathon, age 38 10 mile, and overall female 2 mile.  I'm not particularly proud of the times I ran in any of these races, but lucky for me no women my age in this state have run faster on a certified road course.

I won overall female in 5 races:  Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon, Sweatfest 2 mile, Sweatfest 10 mile, Panther Run 5K, and White River Half Marathon (I was overall person in this one).  I podiumed/finished in the prize money in the Chisholm Trail Marathon (3rd female), at the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon (4th female), at the Brookhaven 5K (6th female), and at the Indy Women's Half Marathon (3rd female).  I ran 11 races total.  How you finish in races is heavily influenced by which races you choose, and I recently have gravitated towards races that I likely will not win, because I run faster within competitive fields.  I primarily think of the women I'm running against as people who can help me meet my personal goals, and not as my competition (e.g., I don't care too much what place I get, but want to hit my time goals).  Especially in my 2:46-2:47 marathons, I wanted every woman around to run 2:44:XX!

In the non-numbers realm, I am proud that I came back from an injury (more here) and developed a lot as a person, including growing a greater appreciation of the process in running.  I continue to find such thankfulness that I get to do this, and that God has given me this passion that brings so much joy to my life in many different ways. 

My biggest success of the year is probably zero injuries, and also zero injury scares!  I didn't need a single ART session or any treatments this year despite running the most I ever have.  I actually feel much better currently running 80-100 mile weeks than I used to running 50-70 mile weeks just a couple of years ago!

I continued coaching a few running friends free of charge.  While I don't have any formal coaching training, I've learned a great deal through my own experience and reading, and I don't want others to repeat my mistakes.  I also love helping others - and of course I love being in the middle of all things running.  Two of my proteges ran marathon PRs, and another ran two super solid marathons only 6 weeks apart, including one overall female win.  I had so much fun seeing their achievements across training cycles.  Running gives me so much that I am happy I can give a little back!

I have a lot of running dreams and goals for 2020, but if I can accomplish the goal of continuing to run healthy that will be the best achievement I can dream of.  Races are amazing experiences, but being able to go outside and run freely every day, sometimes twice, is unmatched.

My 2018 highlights are here, and my 2017 highlights are here (this one also lists my mileage totals from 2010-2016).

May God bless your 2020!
Garmin stats
2019 Race Recaps:
3/24/19 - Chisholm Trail Marathon
4/13/19 - Rock the Parkway Half Marathon
5/25/19 - Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon
6/22/19 - Grandma's Marathon
7/13/19 - Sweatfest 2 mile and 10 mile
8/31/19 - Brookhaven 5K
9/8/19 - Plaza 10K
9/28/19 - Indy Women's Half Marathon
10/5/19 - Panther Run 5K
11/9/19 - Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
11/23/19 - White River Half Marathon