|The start next to Hayward Field|
I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I'm in a pretty dark place at the moment. Eugene was supposed to be the realization of my biggest dream, yet I'm about to recap my first DNF. I should be relaxing, drinking Jam Jar, and enjoying recovery walks with Addy while reveling in the satisfaction of being an Olympic Trials Qualifier. Instead, I'm aiming to make it through the work day without crying (good so far today!) while trying to figure out how the hell I'm going to get back on this horse.
I have dreamt of qualifying for the Olympic Trials for 4 years. The OTQ was a beacon for me, getting me out of bed for 4am 14 milers before work, giving me a reason to push at the end of my long runs, forcing me to say no when friends wanted to go out for drinks. None of this was particularly hard to do. I love running and the journey of chasing big goals. But, as Lauren Fleshman once aptly wrote, "There is a Herculean price to pay for making yourself vulnerable to a dream." I truly believed that I would qualify in Eugene. Now, I'm dealing with the reality of that not being true.
The hardest part for me is to acknowledge that I made some mistakes in the race. Prior to racing Eugene, I had negative split 4 marathons by listening to my instincts and being willing to run alone if I had to. My 2:45 marathon in Indianapolis was a nearly 60 second negative split. In Eugene, I made a plan to stay with our pace group. I told myself to trust my training and my ability to hold the pace. I didn't even look at my watch. When it started feeling a little harder than I wanted, I should have checked our pace and made a decision to go at it alone. We came through the half in 1:20:30, which was about a minute faster than planned. By the time I realized this, it was too late. This is no one's fault but my own! I didn't respect the marathon distance.
At 17 miles, I was still with the group when my legs started cramping. WTF was this? I have never experienced cramps in any race or training run. My calves and adductors felt like they were being squeezed. I told myself to stay calm and that it might just be a rough patch. Soon, it got worse. My stride kept breaking from the cramps and I was weaving all over the bike path. I couldn't even hold a straight line, and felt like I might pass out. I stopped and sat in the dirt around mile 19. My coach (on bike) and Jesse caught up to me (he had run the first 16 miles at our pace and was doing his planned easy run to finish the race). I ran with Jesse to mile 21, then stopped again. I couldn't even get below 7 minute pace. I felt awful, but put in one final effort to finish the race. I didn't want to DNF, but the day was taking an emotional and physical toll on me. I reached a breaking point. Just shy of mile 23, I stopped for good. Two kind strangers offered to drive me to my hotel. I broke down in tears in their car. My dream was gone. I still don't know whether DNFing was the right choice, but I can't change that now. I accept my decision and I'm ready to move on.
I've had some bad marathon bonks (Vermont City 2012 and Phoenix 2013 - finished both races but with an over 10 minute positive split), but never experienced cramping like that. I still don't understand why. Yes, the early pace was slightly too fast for me, but I wouldn't have expected such a severe blow up. I took in 5 8oz bottles of water mixed with 1.5 powergels (in each bottle) on the course. This was the same nutrition as my past 2 marathons except in those I took the gels separate from the water. Autumn said it looked like I wasn't quite finishing my bottles, but there was extra gel in each one to make sure I was getting in the calories. Maybe mixing them with water was a mistake, but it was something I'd practiced in training and it worked great. Maybe my brain likes the feeling of concentrated sugar in gel form when I'm racing at my maximum? It was a little warmer/more humid than I would have liked, but nothing that suggested running fast would be impossible. I ate a lot of calories/carbs before the race, and my stomach was fine. I didn't feel too nervous. I was in damn good shape heading into this race, so I truly don't understand why it was such a disaster. If anyone has any insight/experiences dealing with cramping, I'd love to hear them! The only thing that's strangely comforting is that it seemed to be a tough day for many. The winner, Catherine Watkins (who is the nicest person ever!) said she felt she was in 2:35 shape but ended up running a 2:42. She's Canadian, so it turns out no Americans qualified for the Trials in Eugene. For whatever reason, it was a little harder than expected for all of us...
The only thing worse than failing again would be not trying at all, so I'll be back at it. I'm thinking about returning to Indianapolis this Fall and praying for another cold day ;). In the midst of this darkness, I can still keep perspective. This isn't the end of the world. I'm healthy, I'm strong, and I'm able to run. I have until January 2016 to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon, and I'll try until the last day of eligibility if I have to. I'll learn from this experience and race smarter next time. If I don't make it then, I can walk away knowing I gave it my best effort. For now, I'll try my best to enjoy some down time and celebrate the awesome training cycle I just completed. Although the end result was far from my goal, I know I'm the fittest I've ever been. I still believe...
Thanks to all of you for your support, to my Sonoran Distance Project coach, teammates, and sponsors, and to the staff at the Eugene Marathon for welcoming us so warmly! Thank you to my family, in-laws, and Jesse for being there in Eugene and for telling me you were proud of me even though I fell far short of expectations. None of this would mean anything without you all.
|post race with my people! love you all!|